Two Skripal poisoning suspects are ‘civilians’, says Putin

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday the two men Britain suspects of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal with military-grade nerve agent are not criminals and have been identified as civilians.

Speaking at an economic forum with Japan’s Shinzo Abe and China’s Xi Jinping in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, Putin urged the men to address the media and said there was “nothing criminal”.

“We know who they are, we have found them,” Putin said.

“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 two men to speak to journalists.

“I hope they will turn up themselves and tell about it themselves,” he said.

“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 Russian military intelligence, the GRU.

They are accused of trying to kill former Russian 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 strongly denied.