Britain Authorizes Charges Against Third Russian In Connection With Skripal Poisoning
By RFE/RL September 21, 2021
British police have confirmed that charges have been authorized against a third person in relation to the ongoing investigation into the Novichok attack on Sergei Skripal, the former Russian double agent who was poisoned in 2018.
Scotland Yard said on September 21 that enough evidence has been gathered against a man known as Sergei Fedotov to charge him with conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, possessing and using a chemical weapon, and causing grievous bodily harm.
"Police enquiries uncovered evidence to show that 'Sergei Fedotov' is an alias for 'Denis Sergeyev' and that he is a member of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU," a police statement said.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in March 2018 with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia, part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok.
The two, who were found unconscious in the British city of Salisbury, survived the near-fatal attack.
"We will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of these men as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals. Russia has made this clear following requests for extradition in other cases. Should this position change then an extradition request would be made," the British police statement said.
"We have, however, obtained a European Arrest Warrant which means that if either man travels to a country where an EAW is valid, they will be arrested and face extradition on these charges for which there is no statute of limitations," it added.
Britain has already accused two other GRU officers -- who traveled to the U.K. under the names Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov -- of carrying out the attack. The investigative site Bellingcat later identified Boshirov as Anatoly Chepiga and Petrov as Aleksander Mishkin, both GRU officers.
The GRU -- whose official name is the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation -- is not a new entity. It's been around for decades, operating first in parallel with the KGB and then, after the Soviet break-up, with the KGB successor agencies: the Federal Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service.
In addition to providing more traditional tactical battlefield intelligence for Russian commanders, the agency also oversees several special forces units known as Spetsnaz, some of which are charged with sabotage-type operations.
It engages in electronic surveillance and recruitment of foreign spies, and, more noteworthy, cyberespionage and offensive cyberoperations -- hacking into adversaries' computers, and possibly even inserting destructive code into computer systems.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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