UK: Salisbury suspect ID'd as veteran Russian officer

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – The real identity of one of the two suspects in the Salisbury nerve agent attack has been revealed as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, according to British media.

The man, who was earlier identified by British intelligence services as Ruslan Boshirov, is a decorated Russian military intelligence officer, reported online investigative sites Bellingcat and the Insider.

Chepiga, who fought in Chechnya and served in Ukraine, received the highest Russian state medal for his services, The Guardian reported.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) earlier in September said "Boshirov" and Alexander Petrov were wanted for conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and police officer Nick Bailey in March.

In an interview with Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russian TV outlet RT, the men confirmed they were the people identified by the U.K. investigators but claimed they were coincidentally in Salisbury at the time as tourists.

A British government spokesman rejected this account, saying: “The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service ‘The GRU’ who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country.”

Sergei Skripal and his daughter were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on March 4 in Salisbury. They have both since been discharged from the hospital.

Police officer Nick Bailey, who was among the first to respond to the incident, also received treatment after being poisoned.

Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he had been serving a 13-year prison term for leaking information to British intelligence.

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UPDATE – UK names Russian nationals as Salisbury attack suspects

UPDATES WITH DETAILS, POLICE STATEMENT

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – British prosecutors on Wednesday named two Russian nationals as the suspects of the Salisbury nerve-agent attack that targeted former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal earlier this year.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are wanted for conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and police officer Nick Bailey.

The CPS Counter Terrorism Division “have considered the evidence and have concluded there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is clearly in the public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who are Russian nationals,” said Sue Hemming, CPS director of legal services, in a statement.

The offences by Petrov and Ruslan included “use and possession of Novichok contrary to Chemical Weapons Act” and “causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey.”

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on March 4 in Salisbury. They were both since discharged from the Salisbury District Hospital.

In another incident, British authorities say involved the same nerve-agent in Amesbury, a woman died and a man fell seriously ill.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, fell ill on June 30 after handling an item contaminated with the nerve agent and was taken to hospital and her partner, Charlie Rowley, 45, was also exposed to the nerve agent and taken to hospital in a critical condition.

The Metropolitan Police continue a murder investigation into the death of Sturgess.

“Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” specifically from the Novichok group, British Prime Minister Theresa May had said following the attack in Salisbury.

Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Neil Basu said it is likely the suspects were travelling under aliases and Petrov and Boshirov are not their real names

Basu said the suspects arrived in London’s Gatwick Airport from Moscow two days before the suspected attack and then travelled to Salisbury and left London for the Russian capital shortly after poisoning the Skripal’s front door with Novichok nerve-agent.

Also sharing CCTV images from the investigation, Basu said the suspects are believed to be aged around 40.

Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he had been serving a 13-year prison term for leaking information to the British intelligence.

Russia missed a deadline set by London to explain how a certain type of military-grade nerve agent was used in the attack.

The incident has drawn comparisons to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko after drinking radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.

A world-wide expulsion of 121 Russian diplomats followed the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the U.K.

NATO and the EU have supported the U.K. and condemned the attack.

Medvedev: New US sanctions would be 'economic war'

By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) – Moscow would consider new U.S. sanctions in the financial sector "a declaration of economic war,” Russian prime minister said on Friday.

"Speaking on further sanctions, I would not like to comment but I can say one thing: if a kind of prohibition of bank activities or using this or that currency followed, this can be called absolutely directly, this is a declaration of economic war,” Dmitry Medvedev told a meeting of employees of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve.

“And to this war, we will have to react by economic, political, and, in case of necessity, other methods. And our American friends must understand that."

On Wednesday the U.S. State Department announced its intention to impose new sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in March in the southern English city of Salisbury.

Among the penalties, Russia could face in the second round are the suspension of its flagship carrier Aeroflot’s ability to serve U.S. destinations, a downgrade in bilateral ties, and the effective cutting off of all imports and exports.

The sanctions are expected to take effect on or around Aug. 22 following a congressional notification period.

ABD'nin Rusya'ya “Novichok” yaptırımları

ANKARA (AA) – ABD yönetimi, dün açıklanan yaptırımlarla Rusya'ya savunma malzemelerinin satılmasına son vermeyi, silah satışı finansmanının yanı sıra ulusal güvenlik açısından "hassas mallar ve teknolojinin" satışını engellemeyi amaçlıyor.

ABD Dışişleri Bakanlığından üst düzey bir yetkili, eski Rus ajan Sergei Skripal ve kızı Yulia Skripal'ı İngiltere'nin Salisbury kentinde "Novichok" maddesi ile zehirleme girişimi nedeniyle Rusya'ya uygulanacak yeni yaptırımların detaylarına ilişkin telekonferans yöntemiyle basına açıklamalarda bulundu.

Zehirleme girişimine ilişkin, "Rusya'nın kasıtlı bir şekilde gerçekleştirmesi dışında makul alternatif bir açıklamanın olmadığını" vurgulayan yetkili, yaptırımların 1991 Kimyasal ve Biyolojik Silahların Kontrolü ve Ortadan Kaldırılması Yasası (CBW Act) kapsamında iki aşamalı uygulanacağını kaydetti.

Amerikalı yetkili, "Bu yasaya göre, Rusya'ya herhangi bir savunma malzemesinin satılmasına son vermek, silah satışı finansmanı, ulusal güvenlik açısından hassas mallar ve teknolojinin satışını engellemek üzere yaptırım uygulamamız gerekiyor." ifadelerini kullandı.

ABD Dışişleri Bakanlığı yetkilisinin verdiği bilgiye göre, "hassas mallar ve teknolojiler"le ilgili yaptırımların kapsamına Rus devletinin sahip olduğu ya da devlet tarafından desteklenen işletmelere satılacak bazı ABD menşeli elektronik cihazlar, bilgisayarlar, lazerler, algılayıcılar ve haberleşme araçlarının yanı sıra petrol ve gaz üretim cihazları ile bilgi güvenliği teknolojileri gibi ürünler giriyor.

ABD yönetimi, yaptırımlardan milli çıkarlarının en az ölçüde etkilenmesi için Rusya'da aktif ABD şirketlerinin çıkarlarını gözetecek ve bazı alanlarda istisnalar yapabilecek.

CBW Yasası kapsamında yaptırımların en az 12 ay uygulamada kalması gerekiyor. Rusya, yasada belirtilen bazı koşulları sağladıktan sonra bu uygulamaya son verilebilecek. Aksi takdirde üç ay içinde daha ağır yaptırımların olduğu ikinci aşama da yürürlüğe konulacak.

Rusya'nın yerine getirmesi istenen koşullar ise ileride bir daha uluslararası hukuku ihlal ederek kendi vatandaşlarına yönelik kimyasal veya biyolojik silah kullanmaması, buna ilişkin güvenilir garanti vermesi ve Birleşmiş Milletler (BM) ile diğer uluslararası kurumların gözlemcilerinin araştırma yapmalarına izin vermesi gibi kriterlerden oluşuyor.

ABD yönetimi, Kongre'yi yaptırımlar hakkında bilgilendirdi. Yaptırımların ilk aşamasının 22 Ağustos'ta uygulamaya girmesi öngörülüyor.

İngiliz dış istihbarat servisi MI6 için çalıştığı ortaya çıktığında ülkesinde mahkum edilen ve daha sonra casus takasıyla İngiltere'ye gelen Rus ajan Skripal ile kızı, 4 Mart'ta Salisbury'de bir bankta bilinçlerini yitirmiş vaziyette bulunmuştu. Hastaneden taburcu edilen baba kızın tedavilerine evde devam edileceği duyurulmuştu.

İngiltere, Skripal ile kızının zehirlenmesinde, Rusya tarafından imal edildiği ileri sürülen, askeri nitelikte ve sinir sistemi üzerinde etkili bir kimyasal maddenin kullanıldığının kesinlik kazandığını duyurmuştu. Bu maddenin, Sovyetler Birliği'nce 1970 ve 1980'lerde geliştirilen "Novichok" adlı kimyasal grubundan olduğu belirtilmişti.

Russia condemns US sanctions over Salisbury poisoning

By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) – Moscow on Thursday called new U.S. sanctions against Russia over the Salisbury poisoning incident "unacceptable".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that both these sanctions and those imposed before by Washington were "illegal and against the international law".

Peskov's remarks came a day after the U.S. State Department announced the intention to impose new sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in March in the southern English city of Salisbury.

"Of course, such decisions made by the American side are absolutely unfriendly. And it is unlikely that they can be somehow associated with the difficult but constructive atmosphere that was at the last meeting of the two presidents," Peskov said.

However, Russia still hopes for the possibility of restoring constructive relations with the U.S., he said, adding that "it is too early to talk about retaliatory measures".

The sanctions are expected to take effect on or around Aug. 22 following a congressional notification period.

The British government has blamed the incident on Russia, linking the nerve agent to a series of Russia-developed chemical weapons collectively known as Novichok. The Kremlin has denied responsibility.

The Skripals have recovered from the alleged assassination attempt following intensive care at the hospital.

ABD'den Rusya'ya “Novichok” yaptırımı

WASHINGTON (AA) – ABD Dışişleri Bakanlığı, eski Rus ajan Sergei Skripal ve kızı Yulia Skripal'ı İngiltere'nin Salisbury kentinde "Novichok" maddesi ile zehirleme girişimi nedeniyle Rusya'ya yaptırım uygulanacağını duyurdu.

ABD Dışişleri Bakanlığı Sözcüsü Heather Nauert, yaptığı yazılı açıklamada, "İngiltere vatandaşı Sergei Skripal ve kızı Yulia Skripal'e yönelik Novichok adlı sinir gazıyla suikast girişiminin üzerine, ABD hükümeti 6 Ağustos 2018'de, 1991 Kimyasal ve Biyolojik Silahların Kontrolü ve Ortadan Kaldırılması Yasası kapsamında Rusya Federasyonu hükümetinin uluslararası hukuku ihlal ederek kendi vatandaşlarına yönelik kimyasal veya biyolojik silah kullandığını tespit etmiştir." ifadelerini kullandı.

Nauert, Kongrenin bu konuda bilgilendirildiğini ve 15 günlük süre sonunda bu konuda uygulanacak yaptırımların 22 Ağustos'ta Resmi Gazete'de yayımlanacağını belirtti.

Sözcü yaptırımların detaylarına ilişkin bilgi vermedi.

– 4 Mart'ta zehirlenmişlerdi

İngiliz dış istihbarat servisi MI6 için çalıştığı ortaya çıktığında ülkesinde mahkum edilen ve daha sonra casus takasıyla İngiltere'ye gelen Rus ajan Skripal ile kızı, 4 Mart'ta Salisbury'de bir bankta bilinçlerini yitirmiş vaziyette bulunmuştu.

Hastaneden taburcu edilen baba kızın tedavilerine evde devam edileceği duyurulmuştu.

İngiltere, Skripal ile kızının zehirlenmesinde, Rusya tarafından imal edildiği ileri sürülen, askeri nitelikte ve sinir sistemi üzerinde etkili bir kimyasal maddenin kullanıldığının kesinlik kazandığını duyurmuştu.

Bu maddenin Sovyetler Birliği tarafından 1970 ve 1980'lerde geliştirilen "Novichok" adlı kimyasal grubunun üyesi olduğu belirtilmişti.

UK: Yulia Skripal says 'lucky to survive' poisoning

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned alongside her father, ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal in a nerve agent attack on British soil in March said she and her father were “very lucky” to survive the attempt on their lives.

Speaking to British media for the first time since she was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital in April after a 20-day-long coma, Skripal said she would like to return to her country “in the long term”.

“The fact that a nerve agent was used to do this is shocking,” Skripal told Reuters in an exclusive interview.

“My life has been turned upside down,” she said.

“I woke to the news that we had both been poisoned,” Skripal said, speaking from a secret London location, where she is under protection.

“We are so lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination. Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful,” she said in a written statement.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on March 4 in Salisbury.

“Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” specifically from the Novichok group, British Prime Minister Theresa May said following the attack.

Sergei Skripal was discharged from the same hospital last Friday.

Nick Bailey, a local police officer who was also affected by the nerve agent while giving first aid to the Skripals, was discharged a few days after the alleged attack.

The incident has drawn comparisons to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko after drinking radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.

Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he had been serving a 13-year prison term for leaking information to the British intelligence.

Russia missed a deadline set by London to explain how a certain type of military-grade nerve agent was used in the attack.

A worldwide expulsion of 121 Russian diplomats followed the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the U.K.

NATO and the EU have supported the U.K. and condemned the attack.

UK committee warns gov't of Russian 'money-laundering'

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – A U.K. parliamentary committee has said the British government is risking the country’s national security by allowing “kleptocrats and human rights abusers to use the City of London to launder their ill-gotten funds to circumvent sanctions.”

The report — titled Moscow's Gold: Russian Corruption in the U.K. — by the cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee criticized the government for its approach to tackling international money laundering.

It suggested that the lax policies are putting money “directly into the hands of regimes that would harm the U.K., its interests and its allies.”

It added that the government has failed to follow “robust rhetoric” by Prime Minister Theresa May following the March 4 nerve agent attack that seriously injured ex- Russian spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia Skripal and police officer Nick Bailey.

In a parliamentary statement following the Salisbury incident, May vowed to enact new laws to detain individuals suspected of “hostile state activity,” hinting a series of actions against Russian businessmen who are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

She said her government will also introduce checks on private aircraft and freeze Russian assets that are suspected to be linked with hostile activities targeting British citizens.

“Despite the strong rhetoric, President [Vladimir] Putin and his allies have been able to continue ‘business as usual’ by hiding and laundering their corrupt assets in London,” the report said.

“These assets, on which the Kremlin can call at any time, both directly and indirectly support President Putin’s campaign to subvert the international rules-based system, undermine our allies, and erode the mutually reinforcing international networks that support U.K. foreign policy.”

“We can no longer allow ‘business as usual’. The U.K. must be clear that the corruption stemming from the Kremlin is no longer welcome in our markets and we will act,” MP Tom Tugendhat, the committee chair said.

He said: “The scale of damage that this ‘dirty money’ can do to U.K. foreign policy interests dwarfs the benefit of Russian transactions in the City. There is no excuse for the U.K. to turn a blind eye as President Putin’s kleptocrats and human rights abusers use money laundered through London to corrupt our friends, weaken our alliances, and erode faith in our institutions.”

The report said “there is a direct relationship between the oligarchs’ wealth and the ability of President Putin to execute his aggressive foreign policy and domestic agenda,” adding that “the contemporary oligarchs owe their wealth to the President and act, in exchange, as a source of private finance for the Kremlin.”

– ‘Anti-Russian mania'

Reacting on the report, the Kremlin accused Britain of unprecedented "anti-Russian mania" and warned that such attitude could backfire and scare off foreign investors.

“Investors from any country can face a situation after such actions of the U.K. where their investments will be called ‘dirty money’,” Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

"However, we along with you have started registering signs of unfriendly competition, unfair and unlawful competition in recent years contrary to all norms and rules of the World Trade Organization. Such instances do harm to interests of our companies," he said.

Also speaking about the visa expiry of Russian businessman and the owner of Chelsea Football Club Roman Abramovich, Peskov said he did not have any information but “I have just talked about the fact that our business faces various manifestation of unfair and unfriendly treatment".

Abramovich’s investor visa has expired last month and his application for a renewal from British Home Office is still pending, according to local reports.

British government, for its part, said they would not " discuss individual cases,” and visa applications from Russia are handled "rigorously and properly".

The Anglo-Russian relations have hit the lowest point since the alleged Salisbury attack on Skripals in March, which the U.K. says a military grade nerve agent produced by Russia was used.

The U.K. expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the incident and Russia responded by expelling the same number of British diplomats.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on March 4 in Salisbury. They both have been discharged from hospital, British health authorities said.

The incident has drawn comparisons to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko after drinking radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.

* Elena Teslova in Moscow contributed to this report

UK's national adviser says Russia spied on Skripals

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – Russia had spied on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter for at least five years before the poison attack that put them both in critical condition, the U.K.’s national security advisor said Friday.

Mark Sedwill also said in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Russia had previously tested whether door handles could be used to deliver nerve agents.

Sedwill’s letter to the NATO chief detailed the grounds on which British authorities hold Russia responsible of a suspected nerve agent attack targeting Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury six weeks ago.

Sedwill said “only Russia has the technical means, operational means and the motive” to carry out such an attack.

He said, based on British intelligence, that Russia had developed a next generation nerve-agent group called Novichok and stockpiled small amounts of the agent within the last decade.

Scientists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC) confirmed Thursday that Novichok was used in Salisbury, England in the attack on Skripal.

The international chemical weapons watchdog has said an analysis of samples gathered from Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal, and detective sergeant Nick Bailey — who was affected during the emergency response — confirmed the U.K.’s assessment of the incident.

The chemical weapon used in Salisbury was of “high purity”, the watchdog said.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on a public bench on March 4.

“Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” specifically from the Novichok group, British Prime Minister Theresa May said after the incident, based on an assessment by British experts.

Referring to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, Sedwill said Russia had the operational means to carry out such an attack against Skripal.

Litvinenko died after drinking radioactive tea in a London hotel, according to investigations by British authorities.

Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.

“Russia has a proven record of conducting state-sponsored assassination,” Sedwill said.

“There is no plausible alternative explanation,” he added.

– Russian ambassador

Also on Friday, Russia’s London Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko held a press conference to further question Britain’s conclusions about the incident.

Yakovenko also said a refusal to their demands to provide consular assistance to Yulia Skripal – a Russian citizen – was a breach of the Vienna Convention.

“We are not allowed to see our citizens, talk to doctors, have no idea about the treatment the Russian nationals receive,” he said.

“We cannot be sure that Yulia’s refusal to see us is genuine. We have every reason to see such actions as the abduction of two Russian nationals,” he added.

Yulia Skripal earlier this week was discharged after more than a month of hospital treatment following the attack.

Salisbury District Hospital said Sergei Skripal was still in the hospital but showing progress.

Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he had been serving a 13-year prison term for leaking information to the British intelligence.

NATO and the EU have supported the U.K. and condemned the attack.

UPDATE – Independent inspectors confirm UK nerve agent findings

UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS FROM UK FOREIGN SECRETARY'S STATEMENT; EDITS THROUGHOUT

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – The independent scientists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC) have confirmed Thursday that the nerve agent Novichok was used in Salisbury, England in a chemical attack on a former Russian spy.

The international chemical weapons watchdog has said an analysis of samples gathered from Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and detective sergeant Nick Bailey — the officer affected during the emergency response — confirmed the U.K.’s assessment of the incident.

The chemical weapon used in Salisbury was of “high purity”, the watchdog said.

The U.K. has said its experts from the Porton Down defense research center concluded that the military-grade nerve agent that was used in the attack belonged to a Russia-developed chemical weapon group called Novichok.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reacted to the OPCW findings saying: “The Kremlin must give answers.”

“Today the international chemical weapons watchdog have confirmed the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical used in the attempted assassination of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and which also resulted in the hospitalisation of a British police officer,” Johnson said.

“That was a military grade nerve agent — a Novichok,” he said in a statement.

Johnson added: “This is based on testing in 4 independent, highly reputable laboratories around the world,” and “all returned the same conclusive results.”

“There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible — only Russia has the means, motive and record,” he added.

“In the interest of transparency, and because unlike the Russians we have nothing to hide, we have asked the OPCW to publish the executive summary for all to see and to circulate the full report to all state parties of the OPCW, including Russia,” Johnson added.

“We will now work tirelessly with our partners to help to stamp out the grotesque use of weapons of this kind and we have called a session of the OPCW Executive Council next Wednesday to discuss next steps. The Kremlin must give answers.”

Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on a public bench on March 4 in Salisbury.

“Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” specifically from the Novichok group, British Prime Minister Theresa May said following an immediate assessment by British experts.

The incident has drawn comparisons to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko after drinking radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.

Yulia Skripal has been discharged from a hospital after more than a month, the hospital where she was receiving treatment said Tuesday.

Salisbury District Hospital said Sergei Skripal was still in the hospital but showing progress.

Sergei Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he had been serving a 13-year prison term for leaking information to the British intelligence.

A worldwide expulsion of 121 Russian diplomats followed the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the U.K.

NATO and the EU have supported the U.K. and condemned the attack.