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Britain 'Ready To Ask' Russia To Extradite Suspects In Skripal Poisonings


British police guard the home of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

Britain is preparing to ask Russia to extradite two men it suspects carried out a nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in the city of Salisbury, The Guardian newspaper has reported.

The newspaper, citing unnamed government and security sources, said on August 6 that U.K. prosecutors had completed an extradition request and it is ready for submission. The Russian Embassy in Britain said it had not received an official request from London.

The Guardian reported that an investigation by hundreds of British police and intelligence officers pieced together the movements of the two Russians, from their entry into Britain through their departure.

Britain's Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service declined to comment on the report.

Britain's Press Association news agency reported last month that police had identified two Russian suspects in the Salisbury attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, but there has been no official confirmation of that report either.

The Guardian reported that the decision to press for extradition follows a debate within the government, which was divided between those who want to ratchet up London's response to Russia over the incident and those who see the request as a futile political gesture.

Any extradition request is likely to be rejected by Russia. The Russian Constitution forbids the extradition of Russian citizens to another state.

Russian officials refused to hand over suspects who Britain claimed were responsible for the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko with a rare radioactive isotope in 2006.

"This is Litvinenko all over again. It's almost a rerun of the situation," The Guardian quoted a government source as saying.

The Skripal incident occurred in March, when the former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 intelligence service and his daughter were found unconscious on a public bench in Salisbury.

Britain blamed Russia for the poisonings and identified the poison as Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

The Skripals were hospitalized for months in critical condition, but after what they described as a painful period of recovery, both were released.

After the attack on the Skripals, allies in Europe, the United States and elsewhere expressed support for Britain and concern over the incident by ordering the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.

Russia retaliated by expelling an equal number of Western diplomats. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement and accused British intelligence agencies of staging the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

After the Skripal attack, a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died last month after her partner found a small perfume bottle containing Novichok near Salisbury and unknowingly gave it to her as a gift.

Her partner, Charlie Rowley, was also sickened by the poison in the bottle, but later recovered.

Police have said they believe the two incidents are related, theorizing that perpetrators first smeared the Novichok on the door of Sergei Skripal's house and discarded the container, which Rowley later picked up and gave to Sturgess, who sprayed it on her wrists.

With reporting by The Guardian, Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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