UK to ask Russia to extradite suspects in nerve agent attack

Two Russians suspected of carrying out the Salisbury novichok poisonings have been identified but the Kremlin will block the UK's attempts to extradite them, it was reported tonight.
UK to ask Russia to extradite suspects in nerve agent attack -…

Prosecutors are believed to have finished the extradition paperwork in a bid to put the suspects on trial for the poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley.  The request is likely to be rejected by Moscow but will likely reignite the bitter diplomatic row which erupted following the poisoning of former spy Skripal and his daughter. Police have identified two suspects after months of ‘painstaking’ work to piece together the Russians’ movements, the Guardian reported.

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain´s MI6 foreign spy service, and his daughter Yulia (pictured together), were found unconscious on a public bench in the Wiltshire city in early March The extradition requests have reportedly been finalised and are ‘ready to go’ after police tracked down the Russians they believe were responsible. A source with knowledge of the inquiry said the suspects had been identified through cross-checking CCTV footage with records of people entering the country around the time of the attack. Neither the Metropolitan Police, which has been leading the investigation into the attack, nor the CPS was prepared to discuss the report. The Home Office said that as a matter of long-standing policy and practice, the UK would neither confirm nor deny an extradition request had been made or received until such time as an arrest has been made in relation to that request.

The extradition request is likely to be rejected by Russia – and risks inflaming diplomatic tensions between London and Moscow. In 2007, President Vladimir Putin rejected an extradition request for two Russians suspected of the assassination of the former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London using radioactive polonium. The Russian constitution forbids the extradition of Russian citizens to another state.  A Whitehall source reportedly said the latest extradition request was ‘Litvinenko all over again’.   Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to MI6, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a public bench in the Wiltshire city in early March. Three months later Ms Sturgess died after coming into contact with the deadly substance in nearby Amesbury.   Two more victims, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley (pictured) became ill after handling a discarded bottle of novichok.

Mrs Rowley, a mother-of-three, died in hospital Police in hazmat suits sealed off the bench in Salisbury where the Skripals fell ill in March The Russians collapsed after a day out in Salisbury, leading to large areas being sealed off  Police believe the Novichok was smeared on the door of Sergei Skripal’s house and perhaps discarded in a container that Sturgess’s boyfriend Charlie Rowley then picked up. Mr Rowley said he had found a perfume bottle which he gave to Ms Sturgess, which she sprayed on her wrists. She died eight days later, but he has since been released from hospital.  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.    After the attack on the Skripals, allies in Europe and the U.S. sided with Britain’s view of the attack and ordered the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.

Russia retaliated by expelling Western diplomats. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement and accused the British intelligence agencies of staging the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria. The motive for attacking Skripal, then aged 66 who was exchanged in a Kremlin-approved spy swap in 2010, is still unclear, as is the motive for using an exotic nerve agent which has such clear links to Russia’s Soviet past. The decision to press for extradition follows a debate within the government, divided between those who want to ratchet up the response to Russia and those who see the request as a futile political gesture, the Guardian reported.

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Emma Jones
Emma Jones is an entertainment journalist for UKCelebrityNews and other magazines. The author or coauthor of ten books, Emma has sold several million copies since 2006. She worked for eleven years as a writer and editor at the national news biweekly WORLD magazine.