Britain’s prime minister has warned that Western allies must do more to counter Russia’s spy agency known as the GRU, which she says poses a big threat to citizens across the world.
Addressing parliament Wednesday, Theresa May said that investigators have identified two Russian GRU agents allegedly responsible for the nerve agent poisoning in March of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the British city of Salisbury.
“The actions of the GRU are a threat to all our allies and to all our citizens. And on the basis of what we have learned in the Salisbury investigation, and what we know about this organization more broadly, we must now step up our collective efforts specifically against the GRU,” May told lawmakers.
ID'd by CCTV
More than 250 police officers were involved in the investigation, as CCTV played a vital role in identifying the suspects as they arrived at London’s Gatwick Airport on March 2, two days before the poisoning took place.
WATCH: Britain Demands Action Against Russian Spy Agency as Poisoning Suspects Identified
Their journey from a London hotel to the crime scene in Salisbury was tracked by security cameras. The two men then flew out of Heathrow Airport back to Russia the same evening.
The suspects’ passports give their names as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, though police believe the names were fake. Investigators have appealed for help in identifying the suspects’ true identities.
Russia’s GRU is thought to have played a key role in the 2014 annexation of Crimea as the source of the so-called unidentified “little green men” — masked soldiers wearing unmarked green military uniforms and armed with Russian weapons.
Suspects unlikely to stand trial
The agency is also believed to have hacked emails of the U.S. Democratic National Committee in 2016 and is thought to be behind an attempted coup in Montenegro last year.
“It specializes in this kind of high-risk, short-term operation,” said Andrew Foxall, head of the Russia program at the Henry Jackson Society, an analyst group.
Russia said the names and photographs of the suspects “do not mean anything to Moscow.”
A European Arrest Warrant has been issued for Petrov and Boshirov, but they are highly unlikely to stand trial, as the Russian constitution forbids the extradition of its citizens. Instead, Britain and its allies should look to take additional measures to those enacted at the time of the poisoning, Foxall said.
“In total, something like 150 undeclared Russian intelligence officers were expelled from Western countries. There is still, though, obviously more that can be done. The prime minister herself has suggested that we may push for additional sanctions for the European Union. In the U.S., additional sanctions are already in place,” Foxhall said.
Both Sergei and Yulia Skripal have made a full recovery, along with a police officer who was exposed to the nerve agent after attending to the victims.
Police say the Novichok poison was smuggled into Britain and administered using a fake perfume bottle. A local couple who found the discarded bottle and took it home were hospitalized in June. One of them, Dawn Sturgess, died 10 days later. Police are linking the two investigations.