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Britain Authorizes Charges Against Third Russian In Connection With Skripal Poisoning

Updated

U.K. military personnel at the house of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, on February 4, 2019

British police have filed charges against a third person in the Novichok assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal, the former Russian double agent who was poisoned in 2018.

Scotland Yard said on September 21 that enough evidence has been gathered against a man known as Sergei Fedotov to charge him with conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, possessing and using a chemical weapon, and causing grievous bodily harm.

"Police enquiries uncovered evidence to show that ‘Sergei Fedotov’ is an alias for ‘Denis Sergeyev’ and that he is a member of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU," a police statement said.

Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in March 2018 with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia, part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok.

The two, who were found unconscious in the British city of Salisbury, survived the near-fatal attack.

Britain has already accused two other GRU officers -- who traveled to the U.K. under the names Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov -- of carrying out the attack. The investigative site Bellingcat later identified Boshirov as Anatoly Chepiga and Petrov as Aleksander Mishkin, both GRU officers.

British police said they would not seek the three men’s extradition because the Russian Constitution does not permit the extradition of its own nationals.

“We have, however, obtained a European Arrest Warrant which means that if either man travels to a country where an EAW is valid, they will be arrested and face extradition on these charges for which there is no statute of limitations,” they added.

Speaking to the British parliament, Home Secretary Priti Patel said Russia had carried out a “shameless and deliberate attack."

“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," she said.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, a senior counterterrorism officer, 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," and there had been discussions with Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

“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."

In April 2021, the Czech authorities said they were searching for Mishkin and Chepiga in connection with an ammunition depot explosion in 2014 which killed two people, an attack which had been aimed at a shipment to a Bulgarian arms dealer who was poisoned in 2015.

The police announcement comes on the same day that the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia was responsible for the "assassination” of former Russian security officer Aleksandr Litvinenko in London in 2006.

Litvinenko, 43, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell ill on November 1, 2006, after he drank tea that was poisoned with polonium-210, a rare, highly radioactive isotope.

A British inquiry concluded in 2016 that Putin “probably” approved a Russian intelligence operation to murder Litvinenko.

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