UK charges 2 Russians for attempted murder of Skripals, blames Moscow

LONDON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Britain charged two Russians in absentia on Wednesday with the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter, saying the suspects were military intelligence officers almost certainly acting on orders from high up in the Russian state.

British police revealed images of the two men they said had flown to Britain for a weekend in March to kill former spy Sergei Skripal with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent.

Skripal's daughter Yulia and a police officer who attended the scene also fell ill in the case, which has caused the biggest East-West diplomatic expulsions since the Cold War. A woman later died from Novichok poisoning after her partner found a counterfeit perfume bottle which police believe had been used to smuggle the nerve agent into Britain.

RELATED: UK investigates nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal

57 PHOTOS
UK investigates nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal
See Gallery
UK investigates nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Forensic police officers wearing hazmat suits prepare to examine a vehicle believed to belong to Sergei Skripal on March 8, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Police investigations continue into the use of a nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal, who was found ill in a Salisbury park with his daughter on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in a critical condition in hospital. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
A picture shows the tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found in critical condition sparking a major incident on March 4 at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 after the tent became detached. British detectives on March 8 scrambled to find the source of the nerve agent used in the 'brazen and reckless' attempted murder of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter. Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is unconscious in a critical but stable condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the emergency services in green biohazard encapsulated suits afix the tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found on March 4 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 after the tent became detached. British detectives on March 8 scrambled to find the source of the nerve agent used in the 'brazen and reckless' attempted murder of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter. Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is unconscious in a critical but stable condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture shows the tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found in critical condition sparking a major incident on March 4 at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 after the tent became detached. British detectives on March 8 scrambled to find the source of the nerve agent used in the 'brazen and reckless' attempted murder of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter. Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is unconscious in a critical but stable condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Members of the emergency services in green biohazard encapsulated suits work to afix the tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found on March 4 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 after the tent became detached. British detectives on March 8 scrambled to find the source of the nerve agent used in the 'brazen and reckless' attempted murder of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter. Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is unconscious in a critical but stable condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Members of the fire brigade in green biohazard encapsulated suits work to re-attach the tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found in critical condition sparking a major incident on March 4 at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 after the tent became detached. British detectives on March 8 scrambled to find the source of the nerve agent used in the 'brazen and reckless' attempted murder of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter. Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is unconscious in a critical but stable condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the fire brigade get suited in green biohazard encapsulated suits to work to re-attach the tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found in critical condition sparking a major incident on March 4 at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 after the tent became detached. British detectives on March 8 scrambled to find the source of the nerve agent used in the 'brazen and reckless' attempted murder of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter. Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is unconscious in a critical but stable condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the fire brigade are helped out of their green biohazard encapsulated suits by colleagues in white protective coveralls after an operation to re-attach the tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found in critical condition sparking a major incident on March 4 at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 after the tent became detached. British detectives on March 8 scrambled to find the source of the nerve agent used in the 'brazen and reckless' attempted murder of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter. Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is unconscious in a critical but stable condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Police officers search the home of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury who was found critically ill on a bench with his daughter on March 4 and were taken to hospital sparking a major incident on March 8, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Police officers search the home of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury who was found critically ill on a bench with his daughter on March 4 and were taken to hospital sparking a major incident on March 8, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
A police officer guards a cordon on a residential street in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 where police forensic tents are errected and police continue to work in connection with the major incident which started at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury on March 4. British detectives on March 8 scrambled to find the source of the nerve agent used in the 'brazen and reckless' attempted murder of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter. Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is unconscious in a critical but stable condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Forensic police officers wearing hazmat suits examine a vehicle believed to belong to Sergei Skripal on March 8, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Police investigations continue into the use of a nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal, who was found ill in a Salisbury park with his daughter on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition in hospital. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Police stand guard at the home of Sergei Skripal on March 8, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Police investigations continue into the use of a nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal, who was found ill in a Salisbury park with his daughter on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in a critical condition in hospital. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Police stand guard at Zizzil restaurant reported to have been visited by Sergei Skripal before he colapsed due to poisoning on March 8, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Police investigations continue into the use of a nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal, who was found ill in a Salisbury park with his daughter on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in a critical condition in hospital. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Forensic police officers wearing hazmat suits examine a vehicle believed to belong to Sergei Skripal on March 8, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Police investigations continue into the use of a nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal, who was found ill in a Salisbury park with his daughter on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition in hospital. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Forensic police officers wearing hazmat suits examine a vehicle believed to belong to Sergei Skripal on March 8, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Police investigations continue into the use of a nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal, who was found ill in a Salisbury park with his daughter on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition in hospital. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Forensic police officers wearing hazmat suits prepare to examine a vehicle believed to belong to Sergei Skripal on March 8, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Police investigations continue into the use of a nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal, who was found ill in a Salisbury park with his daughter on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition in hospital. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Forensic police officers wearing hazmat suits examine a vehicle believed to belong to Sergei Skripal on March 8, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Police investigations continue into the use of a nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal, who was found ill in a Salisbury park with his daughter on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition in hospital. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
Pedestrians walk past a cordoned-off branch of the Italian chain restaurant Zizzi close to The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 8, 2018 which was closed in connection to the ongoing major incident sparked after a man and a woman were found critically ill on a bench at the shopping centre on March 4 after being apparently poisoned with what was later identified as a nerve agent sparking a major incident. Britain vowed on March 8 to act 'without hesitation' if a state is found responsible for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent, as police said 21 people in total had received medical treatment following the incident. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the attack on Sunday in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 09: Police officers search ahead of the visit by Home Secretary Amber Rudd to the scene at the Maltings shopping centre in where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found critically ill after exposure to a nerve agent on March 4 and were taken to hospital sparking a major incident, in Salisbury on March 9, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 09: A police officer walks past a forensics tent over the grave of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal's wife Lyudmila in London Road cemetery, on March 9, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 09: A general view of a forensics tent over the grave of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal's son Alexander in London Road cemetery, on March 9, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Police officers dress in protective suits and breathing apparatus in London Road cemetery as they continue investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal who was found critically ill on a bench in Salisbury with his daughter sparking a major incident on March 10, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Police officers dress in protective suits and breathing apparatus in London Road cemetery as they continue investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal who was found critically ill on a bench in Salisbury with his daughter sparking a major incident on March 10, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
British police officers stand on duty at a cordon leading to the home of Russian spy Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018. British soldiers were deployed on Friday to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: A police officer stands at a cordon at the scene connected to the Sergei Skripal nerve agent attack on March 10, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Police tape surrounds a forensics tent covering the memorial stone to Alexander Skripal, inside the entrance of the London Road Cemetery in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, where the wife and son of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal are buried. British soldiers were deployed on Friday to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A member of the emergency services wearing a protective suit works at the London Road Cemetery in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, where the wife and son of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal are buried. British soldiers were deployed on Friday to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Personnel in protective coveralls and breathing equiptment work at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Personnel in protective coveralls and breathing equiptment cover an ambulance with a tarpaulin at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. The Counter Terrorism Policing Network requested assistance from the military to remove a number of vehicles and objects from Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel in protective coveralls stand by as personnel cover ambulances in tarpaulins at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the emergency services in protective coveralls and breathing equiptment cover ambulances with tarpaulins at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Personnel in protective coveralls and breathing equiptment cover an ambulance with a tarpaulin at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. The Counter Terrorism Policing Network requested assistance from the military to remove a number of vehicles and objects from Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel in protective coveralls stand by as personnel cover ambulances in tarpaulins at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the emergency services in protective coveralls and breathing equiptment cover ambulances with tarpaulins and prepare to load them onto military low-loader vehicles at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the emergency services in protective coveralls and breathing equiptment load a covered ambulance onto a military low-loader vehicle at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Military personnel wearing protective suits inspect a bin after an ambulance is removed from Salisbury ambulance station as they continue investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 10, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Military personnel wearing protective suits cover two ambulances with tarpaulin as they prepare to remove them from Salisbury ambulance station as they continue investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 10, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Personnel in protective coveralls and breathing equiptment cover an ambulance with a tarpaulin to be taken away by military personnel at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. The Counter Terrorism Policing Network requested assistance from the military to remove a number of vehicles and objects from Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Military personnel wearing protective suits cover a second ambulance after removing another from Salisbury ambulance station as they continue investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 10, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Personnel in protective coveralls and breathing equiptment work at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack. British soldiers were deployed on March 9 to help a counter-terrorism investigation into a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, as speculation mounted over how London could retaliate if the Russian state is found to be responsible. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition following the March 4 attack in the sleepy south-western English city of Salisbury. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Soldiers wearing hazmat suits seal a waste container at an ambulance depot on March 10, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The ambulance is believed to have carried former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal to hospital, after he and his daughter Yulia fell ill in Salisbury city centre on March 4. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in a critical condition due to the effects of an undisclosed nerve agent. The military have been called in to assist police in their investigation and containment of the major incident. Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a spy swap between the US and Russia in 2010. (Photo by Rufus Cox/Getty Images)
Police officers stand in front of a cordon in front of a branch of the chain Italian restaurant Zizzi in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A pedestrian passes in front of a police cordon in front of a branch of the chain Italian restaurant Zizzi in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Police officers stand outside Zizzi restaurant as it remains closed as investigations continue into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 11, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: A police officer stands outside The Mill as it remains closed as investigations continue into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 11, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010 and his daughter remain critically ill after being attacked with a nerve agent. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
A police officer stands at a police cordon at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer stands in front of The Mill pub in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. Traces of a nerve agent used in the suspected attempted murder of a Russian ex-spy have been found in a pub and a restaurant he visited, England's chief medical officer said on March 11. Sally Davies said up to 500 people who had visited The Mill pub and the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury, southwest England, needed to wash their clothes and belongings as a precaution. The March 4 attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is being treated by detectives as attempted murder. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel, some in protective coveralls, carry equipment in a staging area at a cordon set up behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel, some in protective coveralls, talk at a staging area at a cordon set up behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A military fork-lift vehicle is driven into an area cordoned off behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A military low-loader vehicle is driven into an area cordoned off behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel wearing protective coveralls look at a map while others load a car onto a military vehicle in a cordoned off area behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel wearing protective coveralls look at a map while others load a car onto a military vehicle in a cordoned off area behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel wearing protective coveralls use a military fork-lift to lift a car onto a low-loader military vehicle in a cordoned off area behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel wearing protective coveralls use a military fork-lift to lift a car onto a low-loader military vehicle in a cordoned off area behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Military personnel in protective coveralls handle equipment during an operation in a cordoned off area behind a police station in Salisbury, southern England, on March 11, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack a week ago. British police hunting the perpetrators behind a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy are examining more than 200 pieces of evidence, London said after a meeting of the UK's national emergencies committee. Counter-terror police had identified more than 240 witnesses, the Home Office interior ministry said after a meeting of the committee known as COBRA, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Military personnel were assisting police for a third day after being called in to remove vehicles and items. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

British authorities identified the suspects as Russian nationals traveling on genuine passports under the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Prime Minister Theresa May said the government had concluded they were officers in Russia's military intelligence service GRU.

"The GRU is a highly disciplined organization with a well-established chain of command, so this was not a rogue operation, May told parliament. "It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state."

Skripal, himself a former GRU officer who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain's MI6 foreign spy service, was found unconscious with Yulia on a public bench in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Police released security camera images of the two suspects and outlined a three-day mission that took them from Moscow to London to Salisbury, where they sprayed poison on Skripal's door before flying back to Moscow hours later.

Russia's foreign ministry said the names given by Britain did not mean anything to Moscow, which has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

"We have heard or seen two names, these names mean nothing to me personally," Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow. "I don't understand why this was done and what sort of signal the British side is sending."

Britain and dozens of other countries have kicked out scores of Russian diplomats over the incident, and Moscow has responded tit-for-tat with an identical number of expulsions. The affair has worsened Russian relations with the West, already under strain over Ukraine, Syria and other issues.

May's spokesman said May had briefed U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening. U.S. Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson said on Twitter the United States stood with Britain in holding Russia accountable for its "act of aggression."

 

"REMARKABLY SOPHISTICATED ATTACK

The "remarkably sophisticated" attack appeared to be a clear assassination attempt, said Neil Basu, head of UK counter terrorism policing. He described an investigation which involved 250 detectives and analysis of some 11,000 hours of video.

According to police, the suspects, both around 40 years old, flew to London from Moscow on March 2. They spent two nights in an east London hotel, making two day trips to Salisbury, the first for reconnaissance, the second to kill Skripal. They flew out on March 4, hours after the Skripals were found unconscious.

Security cameras filmed the suspects near Skripal's house, and traces of Novichok were found in their London hotel room.

The Russians are charged with conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and with the attempted murder of Skripal, his daughter and police officer Nick Bailey. They are also charged with illegal use and possession of a chemical weapon.

A European arrest warrant has been issued for them, but prosecutors said Britain would not ask Moscow to extradite Russian citizens because Russia's constitution forbids it.

Basu said the Skripals were making a good recovery.

A woman from a town near Salisbury, Dawn Sturgess, died in July and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill after Rowley found a counterfeit bottle of Nina Ricci perfume containing Novichok in a charity collection box and brought it home. Basu said police had no doubt the events were linked, and were discussing charges over the Sturgess and Rowley case with prosecutors.

The Skripal case has been likened by British politicians to the murder of Russian dissident ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in a London hotel in 2006. Britain charged two Russians with his murder but both remain in Russia, and one later won a seat in parliament.

May said the Litvinenko case showed there was no point to demanding the Skripal suspects' extradition. "But should either of these individuals ever again travel outside Russia, we will take every possible step to detain them, to extradite them and to bring them to face justice here in the United Kingdom." (Additional reporting by Kate Holton, Elizabeth Piper, Kylie MacLellan and William Schomberg; Editing by Stephen Addison and Peter Graff)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.