Russian wanted over Skripal poisoning ‘to break silence next week’

One of the men accused of poisoning Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal will break his silence next week, Russian state TV reports.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were accused of carrying out the attack using Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury earlier this year.

The UK claims the men are spies who were operating under aliases.

State television channel Rossiya-24 said it had spoken to Petrov and that he declined to comment on the case for now, saying only that he worked for a pharmaceutical company in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

"No comment for the moment. Maybe later. Next week, I think," he was quoted as saying.

Vladimir Putin said the suspects are known to Russian authorities and they have been found, but he rejected Britain’s claims that the pair work for the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.

Putin broke his silence on Wednesday a week after British authorities named the men suspected of trying to murder Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in March.

The president, speaking at an economic forum in the Russian port city of Vladivostok, claims the men haven’t done anything wrong and he hopes they will appear before the media to tell the world their side of the story.

He said his officials "know who these people are", but he did not name the pair.

Now, it has been reported in Russian media that Petrov will break his silence next week.

The men are thought to be aged around 40.

Prosecutors deem it futile to apply to Russia for the extradition of the two men but a European arrest warrant has been obtained and the authorities are also seeking the assistance of Interpol.

British investigators say the nerve agent was brought into the UK in a counterfeit bottle of designer perfume.

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The Skripals were left critically ill after they were exposed to the military grade nerve agent, but both were later released from hospital.

A police officer who visited the home of the Skripals shortly after the attack, Nick Bailey, was also left critically ill from exposure to the substance.

Detectives have formally linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury when Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent.

Mr told police he found a box he found the discarded bottle of perfume in a charity bin on June 27.

Inside the box was a bottle and applicator, and police said Mr Rowley tried to put the two parts together at his home address in Amesbury on June 30.

In doing so, he got some of the contents on himself.

He said Ms Sturgess had applied some of the substance to her wrists before feeling unwell.

She died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.

The box and bottle were labelled as Premier Jour by Nina Ricci – but Scotland Yard has confirmed that they were counterfeits and had been specially adapted.

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The UK has blamed Russia for the attack on the Skripals, but the Kremlin has denied allegations that it was involved.

The attempted murder of the father and daughter triggered a wave of diplomatic expulsions by both sides, sending relations to their lowest point since the Cold War.

British allies Canada, France, Germany and the US have backed Prime Minister Theresa May’s claim that the suspects in the Salisbury nerve agent attack are Russian spies.

They agreed with the British assessment that the operation was "almost certainly approved at a senior government level" in Moscow.

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