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UK police charge 3rd Russian in 2018 poisoning of ex-spy

The Skripals survived, but the attack later claimed the life of a British woman and left a man and a police officer seriously ill.

LONDON (AP) — British police said Tuesday they are charging a third Russian suspect in the 2018 nerve agent attack on a former Russian agent in England.

Prosecutors believe there is sufficient evidence to charge Denis Sergeev, who went by the alias “Sergey Fedotov,” with conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, possessing and using a chemical weapon, and causing grievous bodily harm, according to Scotland Yard.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were targeted in a nerve agent attack in March 2018 in the English city of Salisbury. British authorities the poisoning had almost certainly approved been “at a senior level of the Russian state.” Moscow has vehemently denied the allegations.

The Skripals survived, but the attack later claimed the life of a British woman and left a man and a police officer seriously ill.

Police previously charged two other Russian military intelligence agents, known by the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, saying they traveled to the U.K. for the poisoning operation then flew back to Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed the suspects were civilians, and the two suspects appeared on Russian television claiming they had visited Salisbury as tourists.

Police said Tuesday they have evidence that the third suspect, Sergeev, was also a member of the Russian military intelligence service known as the GRU.

Arrest warrants have been issued for all three men. Police said they will apply for Interpol notices for Sergeev on Tuesday, but British prosecutors said they will not apply to Russia for his extradition because the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that “any formal extradition request is futile" while the suspects remain in Russia.

“Should any of these individuals ever travel outside Russia, we will work with our international partners and take every possible step to detain and extradite them to face justice," Home Secretary Priti Patel told Parliament members Tuesday.

Russia's Defense Ministry, which the GRU is part of, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, a senior counter-terrorism officer who has been leading the investigation, said investigators have pieced together evidence suggesting that all three suspects “previously worked with each other and on behalf of the Russian state as part of operations carried out outside of Russia."

“All three of them are dangerous individuals,” he said. “They have tried to murder people here in the U.K, and they have also brought an extremely dangerous chemical weapon into the U.K. by means unknown."

Haydon appealed for anyone who had seen the three men in the U.K. in March 2018 to come forward.

Online investigative website Bellingcat previously reported that Sergeev was a high-ranking GRU officer and a graduate of Russia's Military Diplomatic Academy. The website said he was suspected of involvement in the poisoning of an arms manufacturer, his son and a factory manager in Bulgaria in 2015.

Skripal, a Russian military intelligence officer turned double agent for Britain, and his daughter Yulia, who was visiting him, spent weeks in critical condition after the attack.

Three months after the pair fell sick, two local residents who apparently picked up a discarded perfume vial that contained the nerve agent fell ill. One recovered, but the other died. A police officer who was investigating the case also fell ill; he recovered but later quit the force.

The case ignited a diplomatic confrontation in which hundreds of envoys were expelled by both Russia and Western nations.


By SYLVIA HUI Associated Press

Categories / Criminal, Government, International, Law, Politics

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