Russia’s Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that two men Britain suspects of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal with military-grade nerve agent had been identified as “civilians” and were not criminals.
Putin urged the men to address the media and said there was “nothing criminal” about them, as he spoke at an economic forum in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.
“We know who they are, we have found them,” Putin said during an event with Japan’s Shinzo Abe and China’s Xi Jinping.
“They are civilians, of course,” he said, apparently responding to a claim by the British authorities that the two suspects are members of Russia’s military intelligence agency.
Putin urged the men to speak to journalists.
“I hope they will turn up themselves and tell about themselves,” he said in comments that hinted they will make a public statement shortly.
“There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you. We’ll see in the near future.”
British authorities have issued European arrest warrants for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, two suspected members of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.
They are accused of trying to kill Russian former spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the Novichok nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, in an attack London believes was sanctioned by the Kremlin.
The British government has said Putin is ultimately responsible for the attack, a claim the Kremlin has furiously denied.
London and its allies expelled dozens of Russian diplomats after the poisoning, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow and plunging relations to a new low.
The Skripals survived the poisoning but a local man, Charlie Rowley, picked up a fake perfume bottle containing Novichok weeks later.
Rowley gave it to his girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess, who later died.
British prosecutors accuse Petrov and Boshirov of conspiracy to murder Skripal, attempted murder and the use of a banned chemical weapon.
They said they would not formally demand the men’s extradition, as Russia does not extradite its citizens, but have obtained a European Arrest Warrant for the pair.
The case has strong echoes of the poisoning of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in Britain in 2006.
Britain said Russians Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun were behind what it said was a likely Kremlin-backed killing, but the pair have never been tried and Lugovoi has since become a lawmaker in Russia.
Second largest physicians group in US has new prescription: It’s Medicare for All
More than 2,000 physicians announced an open letter to the American public, prescribing single-payer Medicare for All, in a full-page ad in the New York Times that will run in the print edition on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. On Monday, in a separate but related move, the American College of Physicians (ACP), a national organization representing 159,000 internists, officially endorsed single-payer Medicare for All reform. The ACP is the largest medical specialty society and second-largest physician group in the country after the American Medical Association (AMA). (Photo: PNHP)
Greta Thunberg slams climate change inaction as Davos awaits Trump
Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg on Tuesday slammed global inaction on climate change in front of the world's top business leaders, as the annual Davos forum faced up to the perils of global warming while bracing for an address from US President Donald Trump.
The 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps resort got under way seeking to meet head-on the dangers to both the environment and economy from the heating of the planet.
Trump, who has repeatedly expressed scepticism about climate change, is set to give the first keynote address of Davos 2020 on Tuesday morning, on the same day as his impeachment trial opens at the Senate in Washington.
Trump arrives in Davos hours before impeachment trial reopens
US President Donald Trump arrived in Davos on Tuesday for the annual WEF forum, where he was to give a keynote speech just hours before his impeachment trial kicks into high gear in Washington.
Trump's Marine One helicopter touched down in the picturesque Swiss ski resort shortly ahead of his scheduled speech to the World Economic Forum, which this year is focusing on climate change.
He was also due to meet separately with the president of Iraq, Pakistan's prime minister and the head of the European Union executive body.
Meanwhile in Washington, Trump's impeachment enters a new phase in the Senate with legislators debating the format for the trial.