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Russian spies smuggled novichok through airport baggage checks
September 13, 2018
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LONDON: Two alleged Russian spies who launched the Salisbury attack smuggled novichok into the UK through Gatwick Airport, the security minister has confirmed.

Ben Wallace told the House of Commons there was “clearly some form of attempt to create a legend to make sure that they circumvented our checks”.

“No doubt at the other end of that aeroplane journey there was some, I should think, the baggage checks weren’t probably as good as they might be,” he added.

“[The novichok], we believe, in a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle. That bottle was then recklessly discarded on the streets of Salisbury, and had the potential to kill or injure hundreds and hundreds of people.”

Prosecutors have charged two Russian men using the suspected aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov with attempting to assassinate Sergei Skripal in a “reckless” poisoning that later caused the death of Dawn Sturgess.

They flew into Gatwick Airport from Moscow on 2 March, using legitimate business visas and genuine government-issued Russian passports. Mr Wallace said there was no health risk to their fellow air passengers or those who travelled on the public transport they used to travel around London and onwards to Salisbury. “When a hostile state is determined to try and use its full resources to penetrate another state the challenge is much greater,” he added.  “The logistical support of that state in assisting its agents is significant and that means for example that these two individuals travelled on a genuine Russian passport, making it harder to spot.”

The British government has said the two suspects were members of the GRU military intelligence agency, where Mr Skripal served as a colonel before passing secrets to MI6 that unmasked undercover Russian spies in Europe.

The poisoning led to a wave of diplomatic expulsions in the UK and by its allies, and retaliation by Russia as its government denied any involvement in the attack.  Asked whether there would be any further expulsions during a parliamentary debate on the Salisbury incident, Mr Wallace said: “We will keep all options on the table.

“For now we are working on a number of measures to push back Russia’s activities and do our best to degrade their intelligence services.”

Vladimir Putin claimed there was “nothing criminal” about the two named suspects on Wednesday and claimed they were “civilians”.

The Independent

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