Putin: Skripal poisoning suspects 'civilians, not criminals'

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Questioned on whether the pair were civilians, he replied: 'Of course they are civilians'.

Yulia and Sergei were discovered slumped on a bench in a critical condition - with the nerve agent also poisoning courageous policemen Sgt Nick Bailey, and later residents Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Petrov and Boshirov "are officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU".

The Russian president also made the weird move of asking Petrov and Boshirov to appear in public to dispel doubt about their true identity.

On September 5 the United Kingdom accused the alleged GRU officers, who came to the country under the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripals.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the plenary session titled "The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities" as part of the 2018 Eastern Economic Forum at the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island in Vladivostok, Sept. 12, 2018.

Vladimir Putin has said that Russian Federation has identified the men accused of carrying out the Salisbury nerve agent attack - but insists there is "nothing criminal" about them.

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London and its allies expelled dozens of Russian diplomats after the poisoning, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow and plunging relations to a new low. There is nothing special or criminal there.

'I hope they will turn up themselves and tell everything. "We'll see in the near future", he added. The Brits have leveled charges against them, while not having much in the way of expectations that they'll ever get their hands on them.

May's spokesman said later that Britain's attempts to get an explanation from Russian Federation have always been met with obfuscation and lies.

The pair survived, and British authorities last week issued a European arrest warrant for Russian nationals Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov over attack.

Calling the poisoning a "sickening and despicable" attack, Javid said it was "unequivocally, crystal-clear this was the act of the Russian state - two Russian nationals sent to Britain with the sole objective of carrying out a reckless assassination attempt".

Rowley gave it to his girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess, who later died.

The case has strong echoes of the poisoning of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in Britain in 2006.