UK Police identify Russian suspects in novichok poisoning

Authorities in the United Kingdom say they have identified possible suspects in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Sky News reports the suspects were identified on security cameras and that those individuals are Russian:

Officers believe several Russians were involved in the attempted murder and say they are looking for more than one suspect.

“Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the novichok attack through CCTV and have cross-checked this with records of people who entered the country around that time,” a source close to the investigation told PA.

They said investigators were “sure” the suspects were Russian.

The Independent reports that the information on identifying suspects was also confirmed by American sources: “The progress made on identification was also confirmed by American as well as British security sources earlier this week. US intelligence agencies have been closely involved in the Salisbury investigation from the start.” That all sounds fairly solid but there is one caveat to this story. Despite this information being reported by multiple news outlets, security minister Ben Wallace said on Twitter the reports sounded like “wild speculation.”

Is he trying to squash leaks or does the Press Association have this wrong? So far Scotland Yard is neither confirming or denying the reports.

In the meantime, additional details have also been reported about the death of Dawn Sturgess from novichok poisoning. As I noted last Friday, after Sturgess’ death, police found a small glass bottle of the nerve agent in the home where Sturgess’ boyfriend lived. He also became ill from exposure but has survived. Sky News reports that glass bottle apparently looked like it might be a perfume bottle and investigators now believed Sturgess sprayed some on her hands, unaware of what it actually contained:

The woman who died after the novichok poisoning in Amesbury suffered damage to her hands and face, Sky News understands…

Mr Rowley has told relatives that he remembers giving Dawn what appeared to be a small perfume bottle before the pair were exposed to the nerve agent.

Within their complex investigation, detectives are looking at the possibility that Ms Sturgess tested the spray on her face and hands, believing it to be perfume.

The Independent adds that there was apparently some “forensic evidence” on the bottle itself which is helping the investigation. Honestly, I’m having a hard time imagining what that might be. My first thought was that one of the agents who doused the Skripal’s home left some DNA behind, but you’d have to be crazy to handle this stuff without gloves if you knew what it was, so DNA doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Of course it almost goes without saying that Russia denies everything. Even if UK authorities can connect this to specific agents who returned to Russia after the poisoning, they won’t be able to connect it to an order from Putin himself unless someone defects. Which brings us full circle because the whole point, apparently, of targeting the Skripals was to show that no one who betrays Russia is safe.

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