British authorities issued warrants for two suspected GRU agents in a major development in the Sergei Skripal assassination attempt case. Investigators allege that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were the perpetrators of the attack on the Russian defector, his daughter Yulia, and a police officer who attempted to assist them. They found the evidence in part because the two alleged suspects left it behind, killing a woman who had no part in the plot at all:
Two Russian nationals have been named as suspects in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
The men, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, are thought to be officers from Russia’s military intelligence service, the PM said.
Scotland Yard and the CPS say there is enough evidence to charge the men.
For two GRU agents, they don’t appear to have been very discreet. Authorities seem to have a detailed itinerary for their movements with the UK, both before and after the assassination attempt, as Euronews Now reports in the video above. Thanks in no small part to the pervasive surveillance cameras deployed by the Brits, they have a number of images showing both men, together and separately, as they traveled to accomplish their alleged mission.
If that raises any doubts in Moscow, it doesn’t in London. Theresa May flat-out declared the case solved, and put the blame squarely on the Russian government:
In an emergency statement to parliament, Theresa May says Russian military intelligence was behind the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Read more: https://t.co/ri9suAZyha via @ReutersTV pic.twitter.com/7G2eGheh94
— Reuters UK (@ReutersUK) September 5, 2018
“This was not a rogue operation,” May told Parliament. “It was almost certainly approved outside the GRU, at a senior level of the Russian state.” Senior level in this case means Vladimir Putin, of course.
However, don’t expect a trial in the near future, or likely at all. As May notes, Russians don’t allow extradition of their citizens, especially those working for the GRU:
“It is clearly in the public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov,” Sue Hemming, the Crown Prosecution Service’s director of legal services, said in a statement.
Hemming said Britain would not apply to Russia to extradite the men because the Russia’s constitution does not allow the extradition of its own nationals. But she said Britain has obtained a European arrest warrant for Petrov and Boshirov.
The Interpol red notice will keep the two from leaving Russia in the future, however. If they’re dumb or desperate enough to travel where Interpol operates, Russia won’t be able to do much about preventing their capture and extradition back to the UK. Their careers as active agents are all but over, which is better than what can be said for their victims.
The UK has been Russia’s playground for assassinations and mysterious deaths ever since Alexander Litvinenko’s death in 2004. May’s clearly getting tired of it and wants to embarrass Putin as much as possible. One option could be a very public trial-in-absentia, one that would expose as many of Russia’s assets as possible. A darker option would be to provide symmetrical responses to Russia’s attacks, but that would get very messy and probably never equal up, thanks to Putin’s cold-bloodedness. Showing up Russians’ failure to execute the hit and leaving the wide trail behind them should be embarrassing enough for the GRU and for Putin. Score one for May, and we’ll see if that keeps Putin from sharing any more Novichok in the future.