UK urges UNSC meet as Russian spy duo charged

AFP
Britain requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council after issuing arrest warrants for two Russian spies charged with carrying out a nerve agent attack on British soil.
AFP

Britain yesterday requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council after issuing arrest warrants for two Russian spies charged with carrying out a nerve agent attack on British soil.

British Ambassador Karen Pierce said the meeting, expected to take place today, would be to update council members on the poisoning of Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury.

British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier told parliament that two Russian military intelligence officials carried out the March 4 attack. Police identified them as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

May told MPs the pair “are officers of the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU” — adding that the attack had been sanctioned from higher-up.

London and its allies have blamed Moscow for the attack, which Russia has angrily denied, sparking a wave of diplomatic expulsions on both sides, as well as fresh US sanctions.

A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said yesterday that it had no knowledge of Petrov or Boshirov and accused London of “manipulating information.”

“The names published by the media, like their photographs, mean nothing to us,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in televised remarks. “We once again call on the British side to switch from public accusations and manipulating information to practical cooperation through law enforcement agencies.”

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of London’s Metropolitan Police — Britain’s top counterterrorism officer — said the two suspects were believed to be in their 40s. “It is likely that they were traveling under aliases,” he said.

He said the pair flew into London’s Gatwick Airport from Moscow on March 2 and stayed at a hotel in the east of the capital — where traces of Novichok were found in their room.

On the Saturday they paid a day-trip to Salisbury, a sleepy city in the southwest of England, to carry out reconnaissance.

They returned the following day, when they smeared Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, on Skripal’s front door.

A few hours later, Skripal and his daughter, who was visiting from Moscow, were found unconscious on a park bench in the city. The two men that evening flew back to Moscow.

The Crown Prosecution Service said Petrov and Boshirov face charges of conspiracy to murder the ex-spy, and the attempted murder of Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and Nick Bailey, a cop injured in the attack.

Skripal was a colonel in Russian military intelligence who was jailed for betraying agents to Britain’s MI6 security service. He moved to England in 2010 as part of a spy swap. The Skripals and Bailey both recovered.

But on June 30, a British couple fell ill from the same type of nerve agent in the nearby town of Amesbury. One of them, 44-year-old mother of three Dawn Sturgess, died on July 8.

Her partner Charlie Rowley had found and given her a falsely labeled perfume bottle, which police said contained a “significant amount of Novichok.”

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