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.
Trump furious with Steve King for crippling his re-election chances in Iowa: CNN’s April Ryan
Sitting in with CNN's Victor Blackwell on Sunday morning, contributor April Ryan relayed that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is in big trouble not only with his party over his latest comments about rape and incest, but that Donald Trump is aggravated with him too because he may impact the president's chances in Iowa in the 2020 election.
With King reeling from the fallout from his own comments made during an appearance earlier in the week, Ryan said that his days may be numbered because senior Republicans want him gone too.
Trump White House tried to stop immigrant kids from attending public schools
Led by President Donald Trump's xenophobic top adviser Stephen Miller, the White House reportedly spent months attempting to devise a way to stop undocumented immigrant children from attending public schools in the United States.
According to Bloomberg, which first reported on the effort on Saturday, top Trump aides sought to hand states the "power to block undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools."
"Using children like this as political pawns is another low point for the Trump administration."—Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
Psychoanalyst Justin Frank on why Trump ‘hates reality’ and must be ‘quarantined’
Donald Trump is a living, breathing national emergency. Our president has repeatedly encouraged violence against his perceived enemies — and at least some of his supporters are following his lead. These are not isolated incidents. There are dozens of court cases where Donald Trump has been cited for "inspiring" acts of violence and other crimes. There are also the most odious examples such as the recent white supremacist terror attack in El Paso in which the alleged mass murderer wrote an online "manifesto" that almost verbatim channeled Trump's threatening rhetoric towards nonwhite people.