Police have said the quantity of Novichok concealed in a fake perfume bottle used in the 2018 Salisbury attack could have killed thousands.
Investigators still do not know what happened between the weapon used to poison Sergei Skripal on 4 March 2018 and the discovery by a member of the public on 22 June of that year.
Believing the fake Nina Ricci perfume to be real, Charlie Rowley gifted it to her partner, Don Sturgess, who died after applying nerve agents to her skin.
Dean Hayden, senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing, said investigators had not established how the bottle was brought to the UK.
“The amount of novichok in that bottle was significant, and if it were widely circulated among the public, hundreds if not thousands of lives could have been lost,” he told a press conference.
“We have not been able to account for the whereabouts of the bottle, nozzle and box between the initial attack and the finding of Mr Rowley on 22 June. We want to hear from anyone who has the information.”
Mr Rowley believes he may have found the bottle in a charity shop bin in Salisbury, but Mr Hayden said police had found no evidence to confirm where it was found or where it was found. How did it get there?
He said there was a “lag” in the investigation, where the two Russian GRU agents who carried out the attack threw it after using the bottle to put Novichok on Mr. Skripal’s front door.
The issue is expected to be a key part of the investigation into the death of 44-year-old mother Sturgess. The hearing will take place on Wednesday.
A third Russian spy has been charged with involvement in the attack that targeted former Russian double agent Mr. Skripal.
Denis Sergeev, who traveled to the UK under the alias Sergei Fedotov, is believed to have commanded two GRU agents carrying out the poisonings from London.
He flew from Moscow to Heathrow Airport on 2 March 2018, arrived about four hours earlier than his colleagues, and stayed at a hotel in Paddington for two nights.
British counter-terrorism police said Mr Sergeev met with two agents who then went to Salisbury “on more than one occasion” over the weekend of the attack, but found no trace of Novichok in his hotel.
Mr. Sergeev, who is almost 50, flew back from Heathrow to Moscow on March 4 at 1.45 pm, less than two hours after the nerve agent was applied to Mr. Skripal’s door.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has authorized charges against Mr. Sergeev as the two previous suspects, including attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter Yulia, grievous bodily harm to police officer Nick Bailey, and the use of Novichok. Chemical weapon.
The Russian government has denied any involvement in the 2018 attack. At a news conference on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Britain of “deliberately deteriorating relations” and using poison to “increase anti-Russian sentiment in British society”.
“We condemn attempts to blame Russia,” she said. “We are trying to find out the truth and seek detailed information from the UK, and to meet our obligations to provide consular access to our citizens. [Sergei and Yulia Skripal]”
Mr Hayden said Mr Sergeev “worked as a team” with Alexander Petrov, aka Alexander Mishkin, and Ruslan Boshirov, aka Anatoly Chepiga.
Mr Hayden, who is also deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told a news conference: “They came here separately in two groups – Petrov and Boshirov together, Fedotov by himself – [and] met, and they undoubtedly worked as a small team with a view to deploying Novichok to kill people in this country.
“There is other intelligence that suggests they have been here before, but also in other countries, working as a threesome and are likely to be with others … in connection with similar attacks. “
British police are working with their counterparts in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic regarding attacks involving similar suspects. Investigators said there was no evidence they were involved in previous attacks in Britain.
The charges announced on Tuesday do not involve the death of Sturgess and the investigation into her death is ongoing.
“There are still parts of the picture that we haven’t been able to piece together,” Hayden said. “We are as determined as ever to bring those responsible for Don’s murder and Charlie’s poisoning to justice.”
The CPS is not applying for an extradition warrant to Russia because the country’s constitution does not allow the extradition of its own citizens.
Instead, an Interpol red notice has been issued, meaning the suspects could be arrested if they leave Russia – where the three men are believed to have lived.
Police are appealing to anyone in the UK who saw Mr Sergeev, or may have information about the whereabouts of a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle between March and June 2018, to call the anti-terrorism hotline on 0800 789 321 or email [email protected] Police.UK
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /