UK claims men in RT interview were GRU intelligence agents despite their denial

The UK Foreign Office doubled down on their claim that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are officers in Russian military intelligence, after the pair professed their innocence

Background

In March 2018, Sergei Viktorovich Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer turned spy for Britain′s intelligence services, was attacked. He and his daughter were found unconscious after falling victims to what was subsequently revealed to be a chemical nerve agent called Novichok. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia were both were hospitalized, critically ill. In addition, three police officers who responded to the crime scene also required treatment for breathing difficulties.

Novichok, meaning “newcomer” is Russian, are a group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. It is reportedly more toxic and harder to identify than both sarin and the VX nerve agent used to murder Kim Jong-un’s half-brother last year.

Analysis

The pair had said they had been wrongly accused by the UK of attempted murder of ex-Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, in Salisbury in March, stating they were in the city for tourism.

Following the interview's broadcast, UK government spokesperson told RT: “The Police and Crown Prosecution Service have identified these men as the prime suspects in relation to the attack in Salisbury.

“The Government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service – the GRU – who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country.

“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March. Today – just as we have seen throughout - they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”

Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesperson labelled the interview "an insult to the public's intelligence" and "deeply offensive."

The Foreign Office’s claim was backed up by John Glen MP, the lawmaker whose constituency includes Salisbury.

Assessment

Our assessment is that there is no consensus on the who the attackers in Salisbury were. We believe that the UK's claim of the two men interviewed by RT cannot be conclusive as there are too many questions which are unanswered. However, we also feel that as the the GRU may have purposefully used ambiguous methods to carry out the posioning in an attempt to slow down any investigations.