Skripal poisoning suspects are civilians, not criminals, says Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that his government knows the identity of the men accused by Britain of trying to murder a former Russian spy, and they are not criminals.

Vladimir Putin said he knows who and where they are, but that there was "nothing criminal" about their actions.

Britain last week charged the two Russians they allege are Russian military intelligence agents in absentia with the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. "There is nothing special and criminal about them, believe me", Putin said, adding that the two were civilians.

They said they would not formally demand the men's extradition, as Russian Federation does not extradite its citizens, but have obtained a European Arrest Warrant for the pair.

One of the two suspects in the Salisbury poisoning case could give his side of the story as early as next week, according to Russian media.

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Skripal, 66, a former Russian intelligence colonel who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter were found unconscious on a park bench about four hours after the poison was planted.

At the time, British Prime Minister said intelligence indicated the men were officers in the GRU, and the attack would have been approved "at a senior level of the Russian state". "We'll see in the near future".

Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were left critically ill after being exposed to the military grade nerve agent Novichok.

This still taken from CCTV and issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on September 5 shows Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station on March 3.

Rowley in July unwittingly picked up a fake perfume bottle, which the perpetrators filled with nerve agent meant to poison Skripal and made to look like it was from a designer brand.

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Chief Executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down Gary Aitkenhead said later that British experts had been unable to identify the origin of the nerve agent used in the attack on the Skripals.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied knowing about the poisoning.

"We have repeatedly asked Russian Federation to account for what happened in Salisbury in March and they have replied with obfuscation and lies".

Putin said they were civilians who did not work for the military.

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