It is the accusations of one leader against another in the continuing poison saga which has inflamed relations between the United Kingdom and Russia.
In the latest denial of any wrongdoing, Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is “nothing special and criminal” about the pair accused by UK authorities earlier this month.
Putin told reporters on Wednesday that authorities were aware of who the two alleged suspects in the Skripal case were and that they were simply civilians, state news agency Tass reported.
“We have found them just to figure out who they are. There is nothing special and criminal about them, believe me,” Putin said.
The denial goes directly against claims from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who said last week an investigation into the March nerve agent incident pointed directly at Russian involvement from a senior level of the state.
France, Germany, Canada and the United States of America then agreed with the UK’s assessment in officially naming Russia as the alleged culprit behind two poisonings this year on British soil using the Soviet-era Novichok.
May said the poisoning was “not a rogue operation” with two men believed to be from Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, named the main suspects: Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had not been in contact with the pair, but noted the President hoped the accused would make a public appearance in the near future to quash the allegations.
As previously published by Russia Reports, Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia became violently ill after exposure to the poison in the English city of Salisbury in March. The poisoning provoked international condemnation and subsequent sanctions from the United Kingdom against Russia. Both Skripals were admitted to intensive care but survived the poisoning.
The incident flared up again in July after two Britons who lived nearby also became exposed to the nerve agent. Dawn Sturgess, 44, died from the poisoning.
ABC News reports that Skripal’s niece Viktoria, who lives in Russia and often voices pro-Kremlin views, said that she knows “through her own sources” that the men identified as Petrov and Boshirov were “ordinary men” who are “shocked” by the accusations. The relative did not relate however how she knew the information.