Putin has message for Russian poisoning suspects he calls 'civilians': ‘Come forward’

Russian journalists being refused at the London hotel where the two novichok suspects stayed

Russian journalists being refused at the London hotel where the two novichok suspects stayed

Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is "nothing criminal" about the men named by United Kingdom authorities over the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Mr Putin said Moscow had identified the suspects and found that they were civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia September 12, 2018. Well, I hope they will come out themselves and speak about themselves.

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench in Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the nerve agent Novichok was applied to his home's front door.

Russian Federation has hotly contested the allegations that it is responsible for the attack, and on Wednesday Mr Putin escalated the war of words by denying the men were members of military intelligence, and that his officials "know who these people are".

Moscow continues to deny everything, claiming the attack was staged by Britain to stoke up anti-Russia sentiment in Britain. There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you.

The elder Skripal, who was a Russian intelligence agent that switched sides, as well as his daughter, survived the poisoning and now live in an undisclosed location.

After the Skripals were poisoned March 4, Britain and more than two dozen other countries expelled a total of 150 Russian spies working under diplomatic cover.

Theresa May told parliament earlier this month that the attack "was nearly certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state".

A couple who authorities said found the perfume bottle after it was discarded by the attackers fared worse: Charlie Rowley recovered after treatment in the hospital but his partner, Dawn Sturgess, 44, died on July 8.

Russian Federation has said the names of the suspects - as indicated in their passports - given to them by British prosecutors were meaningless.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Vladivostok, said Putin's remarks contradict the earlier claims made by the Russian foreign ministry.

Javid described the GRU as a "very well-disciplined organization" that would "only act with orders from the highest level of the Russian government".

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