The Salisbury assassins spent two years jetting around Europe using their ‘perfect’ fake IDs and one even flew into London 12 months before the novichok attack, security sources in Russia revealed today.
The suspects were handed genuine Russian passports and then secured visas from the British embassy in Moscow under bogus aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov to avoid detection during their murder mission in March.
Their passports were repeatedly used on trips from Moscow to Amsterdam, Geneva, Milan and Paris between September 2016 and March 2018 with British investigators now scrambling to work out exactly what the Russian spies were doing in Europe.
Petrov’s passport was also used in London on February 28 2017 – a year before their botched mission to kill former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent smeared on his front door in suburban Salisbury.
The travel details were published by Fontanka, an independent Russian media outlet with a strong track record of investigative reporting into Putin’s regime.
Hamish de Bretton Gordon, one of Britain’s top chemical weapons experts, told MailOnline today that UK security sources have told him that the men, who were GRU military agents, had watertight backstories that helped them avoid being stopped at the UK border.
He said: ‘The passports were perfect in every detail including all the electrics and circuitry. It fooled the British border electronic security which is considered to be among the best around. We also gave them visas they must have had a plausible back story’.
Mr de Bretton Gordon suggested that Russia may even have hacked the UK’s border security system to make doubly sure they were not flagged as ‘people of interest’ and interviewed. The Home Office today denied this.
Today Security Minister Ben Wallace said Vladimir Putin is ‘ultimately responsible’ for the novichok attack because of his tight grip on the GRU spy network which sent two ‘calamitous’ state assassins on a ‘pathetic’ mission to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
These are the two Russian spies being sought over the novichok poisoning in Salisbury in March. Police say it is unlikely Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are their real names, as they are thought to have many aliases
Petrov (right) was seen grinning in Salisbury on the day police believe the men smeared novichok on Mr Skripal’s front door
It has been possible to reconstruct their journey from Moscow to London, on to the Wiltshire cathedral city and back on a plane to Russia
Fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle used by Salisbury assassins was ‘made by top scientists from the ‘Q-ski’ branch of Russia’s military intelligence
Police have released images of the perfume bottle they say was adapted to help the two Russian suspects carry out their lethal attack
The Russians spent a fortune on the tiny James Bond-inspired perfume bottle used to carry novichok including developing new technology to ensure it wasn’t a suicide mission for their agents, experts revealed today.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, one of Britain’s top chemical weapons experts, says the fake sample vial of Nina Ricci Premier Jour could only have been produced by Putin’s top scientists in their most sophisticated and top secret lab.
He told MailOnline: ‘They needed to ensure that the men carrying out the attack did not kill themselves while doing it. It would be deeply embarrassing if their agents died on foreign soil’.
The two assassins, using the aliases Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, carried the bottle of Novichok into the UK unhindered before spraying it on Sergei Skripal’s front door in suburban Salisbury in March.
Experts believe the botched hit came after up to three months of development and testing probably sanctioned at the highest levels of the Russian state.
The lab, branded ‘Q-ski’ after the research and development division of the British Secret Service in James Bond, made the bottle and ‘one-way’ applicator nozzle so it was impossible for novichok to leak out in transit.
It was also made of special toughened glass, plastic or ceramic sure not to smash, crack or degrade while carrying one of the world deadliest weapons.
He said: ‘The state had clearly decided to sit behind this action and lend its logistics. The men were given genuine passports, provided with aliases that survived a certain level of test and visas used by many law-abiding Russians to visit Britain for holidays or business.
‘The Russian state, which we know had invented novichok, must have made sure it was put in a package that was there to disguise it. If you let them into your system, airside in Russia, it becomes a harder thing to detect’.
Mr Wallace said he is ‘100 per cent sure’ the men named carried out the attack and claimed that Vladimir Putin has ultimate responsibility for the actions of his spies – but added: ‘This was more Johnny English than James Bond’.
He said: ‘Ultimately he does, insofar as he is president of the Russian Federation and it is his government that controls, funds and directs the military intelligence – that’s the GRU – via his minister of defence. I don’t think that anyone can ever say that Mr Putin isn’t in control of his state’.
When asked how the UK would respond he refused to say, adding: ‘We retaliate in our way. We are not the Russians, we don’t adopt the sort of thuggish, destructive and aggressive behaviour that we have seen. We choose to challenge the Russians in both the overt and the covert space, within the rule of law and in a sophisticated way’.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Theresa May’s accusations are “unacceptable” and that “no-one in the Russian leadership” has anything to do with the poisoning.
He also said Russia “has no reasons” to investigate Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
As Britain pointed the finger directly at Putin’s Russia, it emerged today:
- Poisoning suspects were handed watertight fake aliases backed up by genuine documents that helped them get into Britain without suspicion;
- The two countries will come face-to-face at the UN Security Council in New York where the UK will point the finger at Putin’s Russia and urge members to continue or ramp up sanctions;
- Ministers blame Vladimir Putin and say he is responsible for the Salisbury attack and says ‘full weight’ of state was behind it;
- MailOnline uncovers exclusive CCTV of the two assassins casually strolling through Wiltshire town and window shopping after the attack;
- Britain blasts ‘thuggish’ behaviour of Russian spies as secret services launch their own secret war;
Theresa May will wreak revenge on Russia with cyber warfare, espionage, financial sanctions and travel bans all likely to be used, sources said.
Interpol has been put on red alert to detain the two agents, who use the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
Mrs May has warned they would be brought to Britain for trial if they ever left Russia – but experts have said that Vladimir Putin will personally ensure the assassins never leave the country and reward them with lucrative promotions despite botching their assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Historian Yuri Felshtinsky, author of The Putin Corporation whose friend Alexander Litvinenko was murdered after the co-authored a book together, told MailOnline: ‘Even though they botched their covert attack, President Putin will praise the two members of the GRU and reward them in ways that will advance their career, promoting them as heroes now that their cover is blown’.
Theresa May yesterday blamed the Kremlin for the novichok attack and hinted the assassination order may have come directly from Mr Putin because only he has the power in Russian law to order killings abroad.
Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Commons foreign affairs committee, went further by saying: ‘President Putin bears responsibility for a war-like act’ while Bob Seely, a Tory MP and Russia expert, said the order could ‘only have come from the Russian head of state’.
This diplomatic row will heat up further today when British and Russian officials come face-to-face at the UN Security Council.
As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia will be represented at Thursday’s meeting – called by Britain to update members on progress in the Salisbury investigation – alongside UK allies such as the US and France.
Poisoning victim Charlie Rowley has urged police to bring the two suspects to justice.
Mr Rowley, 48, and his partner Dawn Sturgess, 44, fell ill in Amesbury after coming into contact with the substance months after the same nerve agent was used against former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July and a still frail Mr Rowley made an impassioned call to see the suspects, said by police to be Russian military intelligence officers, ‘brought to justice’.
There are fears his calls could prove futile because Russia’s president Vladimir Putin would protect his ‘heroes’ and prevent them ever leaving the country, which has no extradition treaty with Britain.
It echoes the case of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, was murdered using radioactive polonium in London.
Andrei Lugovoy, widely suspected of the killing, remained in Russia where he claimed it was‘more likely that the moon will become part of the Earth’ than that he would face justice in Britain.
In a day of extraordinary revelations, it emerged that the two suspects had ‘near-identical passport numbers’ suggesting the travel documents were issued at the same time ahead of their journey to the UK.
While an apartment in a 25-story building registered to one of the suspects in Moscow proved to be bogus as it was revealed to be the home of an elderly female cleaner – with residents telling Russian media they had never seen a man coming or going on that floor.
Services announced Petrov and Boshirov as the two men responsible for the attack on Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in March.
Astonishing CCTV images show Petrov and Boshirov grinning as they walk around the Wiltshire city on the day Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with the military-grade chemical weapon.
Map shows Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov’s movement on the day of the poisoning
Former KGB agent Litvinenko was poisoned after radioactive polonium 210 was slipped into his tea pot in 2006, a killing which a judge said was probably approved by President Vladimir Putin.
An inquiry found two Russian men – Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun – had deliberately poisoned Litvinenko by putting polonium-210 into his drink at a London hotel, leading to an agonising death.
Litvinenko in hospital before his death
It said the use of the radioactive substance – which could only have come from a nuclear reactor – was a ‘strong indicator’ of state involvement and that the two men had probably been acting under the direction of the FSB.
Possible motives included Litvinenko’s work for British intelligence agencies, his criticism of the FSB, and his association with other Russian dissidents, while it said there was also a ‘personal dimension’ to the antagonism between him and Putin.
International arrest warrants issued for Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun remain in force although Russia continues to refuse their extradition.
Mr Lugovoi became a Russian MP in 2007 soon after the interest in him over Litvinenko’s death. This meant he now has political immunity and cannot be prosecuted.
An inquiry found two Russian men – Andrei Lugovoi (pictured) and Dmitri Kovtun – had deliberately poisoned Litvinenko
Prime Minister Theresa May today revealed the two men are thought to be officers in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, according to British agencies.
The novichok attack left a trail of the deadly nerve agent around Salisbury, with mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess dying after she came into contact with the chemical. Mrs Sturgess’s partner Charlie Rowley and county police officer Nick Bailey were also hospitalised.
In response, Mr Rowley said from his hospital bed that he while he did not recognise the pair, he wants to see the men ‘brought to justice’.
He told ITV News: ‘I don’t recognise the two suspects, but I want to see them brought to justice.
‘I am glad that Police are making progress with their investigation but at the same time, it’s upsetting to see Dawn’s face everywhere, because it brings all the hurt and pain at losing her back to reality.
‘It is progress to see the suspects identified in the Skripal case. But we need to make sure that these people are also held accountable for Dawn’s murder. She was a beautiful woman whose life was unjustly taken away because of them.’
Despite Mr Rowley’s calls, Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert for the Institute of International Relations, said the pair will never be brought to justice, even if Putin loses his grip on power.
He told Sky News: ‘Even if the government changes in Moscow, the Russian constitution explicitly bars the extradition of Russian citizens and given that we assume these two, whatever their real names are, it’s not what’s on their passport, given that they are Russian citizens, they are not going to be extradited.
‘The only chance is if they are stupid enough to try to travel abroad… but to be perfectly honest, their holiday plans are going to be Crimea rather than anywhere else.’
Crystal clear CCTV images released today show the two Russian agents entering Britain at Gatwick, strolling around Salisbury on the day of the attack, and leaving the UK at Heathrow Airport just hours after the Skripals were found collapsed in a park.
Prosecutors will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of the two men, as no agreement exists between the countries, but a European Arrest Warrant has been obtained in case either of the pair are ever spotted outside of Russia.
Theresa May told MPs that British secret services believe the two suspects are officers of the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU.
She said it’s unlikely the agency would have been allowed to carry out such a brazen attack on its own and the hit was ‘almost certainly approved at a senior level of the Russian state’.
Mrs May added: ‘The GRU is a highly-disciplined organisation with a well-established chain of command. So this was not a rogue operation.
‘The actions of the GRU are a threat to all our allies and all our citizens. On the basis of what we have learnt in the Salisbury investigation and what we know about this organisation more broadly, we must now step up our collective efforts specifically against the GRU.’
The pair were caught on CCTV at Salisbury train station on March 3, the day before Mr Skripal was poisoned. Scotland Yard believe they came to the town to carry out a reconnaissance mission
Police released an image of the perfume bottle believed to have contained the novichok and the box it was hidden in. This was picked up by Salisbury resident Dawn Sturgess weeks after the attack. She sprayed it on her wrists before she died
Mr Skripal was a colonel in the GRU before he was jailed for selling secrets to the West and brought to Britain in a spy swap. The Prime Minister’s announcement therefore suggests the hit may have been organised by his former colleagues.
Police said it is likely the suspects, who are aged around 40, were travelling under aliases and Petrov and Boshirov are not their real names. They are appealing to anyone around the world who knows their real identities to contact them.
In a busy morning of announcements and statements, prosecutors revealed Petrov and Boshirov are wanted for conspiracy to murder Mr Skripal and the attempted murder of his daughter.
If caught, the Russians will also be charged with the attempted murder of DS Bailey and the use of novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act.
But Russian authorities denied all knowledge of the two men, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova telling reporters: ‘The names published by the media, like their photographs, mean nothing to us.’
Novichok ‘assassins’ movements revealed: Spies flew into Britain from Russia before getting train to Salisbury
Scotland Yard today released detailed information about the movements of the prime suspects in the novichok nerve agent attack.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov arrived in the UK on a Friday afternoon in March and checked into a budget hotel in east London.
On the Saturday, the day before the attack, they carried out a reconnaissance trip to Salisbury before returning to London.
On the Sunday, they took another train to Salisbury and are thought to have smeared the novichok on Mr Skripal’s front door. That afternoon they returned to London and flew from Heathrow hours after the Skripals were found collapsed in a park.
Friday, 2 March: 3pm: The suspects arrive at Gatwick airport, having flown from Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2588.
CCTV images from 3pm on Friday, March 2 show Petrov (left) and Boshirov (right) arriving at Gatwick airport on a flight from Moscow
Friday, March 2 5.40pm: After travelling into London by train, the pair arrive at Victoria station.
6pm: They travelled to Waterloo station, where they were seen between 6pm and 7pm.
7pm: The pair then travelled to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, East London, where they stayed on the night of the Friday, 2 March.
Saturday, 3 March: 11am: They left the hotel and took the underground to Waterloo station, arriving at approximately 11.45am.
The two spies were pictured in Salisbury the day before the attack, when they carried out a reconnaissance trip
2.25pm: Having caught a train to Salisbury from Waterloo, they arrive in the cathedral city, the day before the attack.
4.10pm: After carrying out what police believe was reconnaissance of the Salisbury area, they leave the city and return to London.
8.05pm: They return to their hotel in Bow and stay there for the night.
Sunday, 4 March: 8am: They made the same journey from the hotel, again using the underground from Bow to Waterloo station before continuing their journey by train to Salisbury. CCTV later showed them in the vicinity of Mr Skripal’s house and police believe that they contaminated the front door with novichok.
The pair are pictured at Salisbury train station on the morning of the day the Skripals were poisoned
The pair are pictured in Wilton Road, Salisbury shortly before midday on March, 4, the day the Skripals were poisoned with novichok
The pair were then seen on Salisbury’s Fisherton Road on March 4 shortly after 1pm, around the time the nerve agent is thought to have been smeared on their target’s front door
As they walk around Salisbury on the day of the attack, they are seen on CCTV in Fisherton Road shortly after 1pm
The pair were seen at Salisbury train station shortly before 2pm on March 4. This is thought to be after they left the novichok on the door
4.45pm: The arrived at back Waterloo Station after the hour and half journey from Salisbury.
6.30pm: They boarded the London Underground to London Heathrow Airport.
10:30pm: They fly out of London, returning to Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2585.
The two men were then seen going through security at Heathrow on their way back to Russia at 7.30pm, just hours after the Skripals were found collapsed in the park in Salisbury
Biometric data is required from Russians seeking British visas, meaning anti-terror police could hold their genuine fingerprints and iris data.
But there are fears the pair could avoid justice but simply staying in Russia for the rest of their lives, like the alleged killers of Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive polonium in 2006.
The charge d’affaires at Russia’s London embassy was today summoned to the Foreign Office for a dressing-down by an official as Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko is not currently in the country.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘He was informed of the charges we have brought against two Russian citizens, the fact that they were GRU officers and of our determination that they should be brought to justice.
‘We also made clear that the UK expects the Russian state to account for the reckless and outrageous actions of the GRU and that the UK expects that Russia provides a full account of its chemical weapons programme to the OPCW.’
Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with novichok in Salisbury in attack which the UK has blamed on Russia
Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess died and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill after they came into contact with novichok. It is thought they found a bottle used to store the chemical
Why won’t Russia extradite the suspects?
British authorities today said they would not apply to extradite the suspects as any request would be rejected by Putin’s regime.
The Russian constitution forbids the extradition of Russian citizens to another state.
A European Arrest Warrant (EAW) has been obtained, which means that if either man travels to a country covered by the scheme they will be arrested.
Police investigating the Salisbury poisoning are also seeking to circulate Interpol ‘red notices’.
The potential for a deadlock carries echoes of the aftermath of the murder of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
In that case, two men were identified as suspects but were never handed over to Britain.
Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the military-grade chemical weapon in Salisbury in March.
Police officer Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was also poisoned when he attended the retired spy’s suburban home. Like the Skripals, he recovered after receiving life-saving treatment at the city’s hospital.
But in June, mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess died and her partner Charlie Rowley were hospitalised after they fell ill at his home in nearby Amesbury.
Police have now released an image of the perfume bottle used by the would-be assassins to transport the novichok. Mrs Sturgess found the bottle and put the substance on her wrists.
Today’s announcement relates to the initial attack, but Mr Basu confirmed that officers have now linked the attack on the Skripals to events in Amesbury less than four months later, in which Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 48, were exposed to the same nerve agent.
Scotland Yard’s counter terror Commissioner Neil Basu said: ‘Today marks the most significant moment so far in what has been one of the most complex and intensive investigations we have undertaken in Counter Terrorism policing; the charging of two suspects – both Russian nationals – in relation to the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.’
Mr Basu added: ‘We do not believe Dawn and Charlie were deliberately targeted, but became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.
‘We know that novichok was applied to the Skripals’ front door in an area that is accessible to the public, which also endangered the lives of members of the public and emergency service responders.’
The Skripals were found collapsed on a park bench in Salisbury in March, sparking a huge investigation which involved anti-terror police, the military and chemical weapons experts
Britain’s most senior police officer, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick added: ‘We remain absolutely determined to identify and bring about a prosecution in the UK courts of those persons responsible for these attacks and we will do all we can to get justice for the victims and their families.’
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed yesterday the toxic chemical that killed Dawn Sturgess was the same nerve agent as that which poisoned the Skripals three months earlier.
The OPCW said it was not possible to conclude whether the nerve agent used in the two incidents was from the same batch.
The Russian state has previously denied involvement. Its embassy in London yesterday demanded access to the Skripals.
A statement released by the Russian Embassy on Tuesday claimed the circumstances of the March attack as ‘obscure’ and accused British authorities of keeping the Skripals in isolation ever since their release from hospital.
It said: ‘They remain out of the public eye at an unknown location, unable to communicate freely with their relatives, friends, journalists or Russian officials, deprived of the freedom of movement.’
Mrs Sturgess’s former home in Salisbury was closed off by police in July as her death meant the investigation became a murder probe
It is thought Novichok was smeared on the front door handle of Mr Skripal’s Salisbury home
‘We’re open for business as usual’: £48-a-night east London hotel where Salisbury ‘assassins’ left traces of novichok six months ago issues safety reassurance to customers after police urge former guests to get in touch
The Metropolitan Police confirmed today that ‘low’ levels of novichok were found in the two-star £48 a night hotel in May during part of their investigations
A budget hotel used by the two Salisbury poison suspects today insisted they are ‘open for business’ after it emerged traces of nerve agent novichok were discovered in a room.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov stayed in the City Stay Hotel in Bow, East London, before carrying out the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed today that ‘low’ levels of novichok were found in the two-star £48 a night hotel in May during part of their investigations.
In a statement released by the Metropolitan Police today, it said ‘we are fully supporting the police investigation’ and said they are ‘open for business as usual.’
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu insisted there was no threat to public health, but has asked anyone who stayed there between March 4 and May 4 to contact police.
It added: ‘We are reassured that the police and Public Health England have confirmed very clearly that there is no health risk whatsoever to our guests or our staff.
‘We are receiving a lot of media attention, and we would kindly ask that you allow our staff and guests to go about their business unhindered.’
In a timeline released by police today Petrov and Boshirov travelled to London on March 2 after landing at Gatwick, making their way to the hotel in Bow.
They stayed there for two nights and then went to Salisbury for reconnaissance before returning to the City Stay Hotel for the night.
The hotel, on Bow Road in East London, is situated next to a train station. It is where the two Russian suspects stayed during their time in the UK
The next day, the suspects travelled to Salisbury again, which is when they smeared novichok on the Skripal’s door.
Mr Basu said today: ‘Two swabs showed contamination of novichok at levels below that which would cause concern for public health.
‘A decision was made to take further samples from the room as a precautionary measure, including in the same areas originally tested, and all results came back negative.
‘We believe the first process of taking swabs removed the contamination, so low were the traces of novichok in the room. Following these tests, experts deemed the room was safe and that it posed no risk to the public.’
One of the rooms at the £48-a-night City Stay Hotel in Bow, East London where the novichok hitmen stayed while in UK
The lobby of the hotel, with table and chairs and a television on the wall
Mr Basu said there has been no reports of anyone falling ill who stayed in the hotel between March 4 and May 4.
Mr Basu added: ‘It is likely, given what we have learnt from this investigation, that anyone exposed to novichock will have experienced symptoms within 12 hours of exposure.
‘The levels of novichok we found in the room at the time of police sampling in May were such that they were not enough to cause short or long-term health effects to anyone exposed to it, at that point or thereafter.
‘We will continue to work closely with Public Health England as new information comes to light.
‘We are asking anyone who stayed at the hotel between 4 March and 4 May to call 0800 789 321 or email Salisbury2018@met.police.uk. Staff from PHE will be on hand to give advice and reassurance.’
One of the twin rooms inside the hotel. It looks over a railway line, has discarded cigarette butts on its doorstep and graffiti drawn onto the front
Today, police officers guarded the entrance and staff declined to comment.
The hotel, which over looks a railway line, has discarded cigarette butts on its doorstep and graffiti drawn onto the front.
Black metal bars are positioned over windows and grass has overgrown on the side of the hotel. Although there is no exterior CCTV, there is a camera in the front lobby.
One hotel guest, retired Army Major Khalid from Bangladesh, said he was paying £258 for five nights.
He said: ‘The police are inside. I’m in room 6 and they are near my room outside rooms 7,8 and 9.
‘I didn’t know what happened until now but I am sure the police have made the hotel safe again for guests to stay.’
Revealed: How ‘assassins’ faked a Nina Ricci perfume bottle full of toxic nerve agent then ‘recklessly threw it away’, leading to the death of British woman
Russian agents suspected of carrying out the novichok attack used a glass container made to look like a perfume bottle.
Charlie Rowley, 48, told police he found a box he thought contained perfume in a charity bin on Wednesday June 27.
The box and bottle were labelled as Premier Jour by Nina Ricci – but Scotland Yard has confirmed that they were counterfeits and had been specially adapted.
Inside the box was a bottle and applicator, and police said Mr Rowley tried to put the two parts together at his home address in Amesbury on Saturday June 30. In doing so, he got some of the contents on himself.
He said his partner, Dawn Sturgess, 44, had applied some of the substance to her wrists before feeling unwell.
After he told police where he found the box, cordons were put in place and two bins behind shops in Catherine Street, Salisbury, were removed.
Previously, during a search of Mr Rowley’s home in Muggleton Road, Amesbury, on July 10, a small box labelled as Nina Ricci Premier Jour was recovered from a rubbish bag in the kitchen.
The deadly chemical weapon is thought to have been smuggled around Britain disguised as perfume in this box
On July 11, a small glass bottle with a modified nozzle was found on a kitchen worktop.
Tests undertaken at the Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory established that the bottle contained a ‘significant amount of novichok’, Scotland Yard said.
The novichok container was designed to look like a bottle of Premier Jour by Nina Ricci. File photo
Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after she and Mr Rowley fell ill.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the manner in which the bottle and packaging was adapted made it a ‘perfect cover’ for smuggling the weapon into the country.
He added: ‘We have carried out numerous inquiries in relation to the bottle and are now able to release an image of it with the nozzle attached.
‘We are also releasing an image of the box that the bottle and nozzle were in.
‘We have spoken to Nina Ricci and undertaken further inquiries. Nina Ricci and our inquiries have confirmed that it is not a genuine Nina Ricci perfume bottle, box or nozzle.
‘It is in fact a counterfeit box, bottle and nozzle that have been especially adapted.
‘I’d like to reassure anyone who has bought Nina Ricci perfume from a legitimate source that they should not be concerned. It is safe.
‘We cannot account for the whereabouts of the bottle, nozzle or box between the attack on the Skripals on March 4 and when Charlie Rowley said he found it on Wednesday June 27.’
Who are the GRU and how was double agent Sergei Skripal involved with them?
The GRU – an acronym for Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye or Main Intelligence Directorate – was founded in 1918 after Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution.
Lenin insisted on its independence from other secret services and the GRU was seen as a rival by other Soviet secret services, such as the KGB.
According to Yuri Shvets, a former KGB agent, GRU officers were referred to as ‘boots’ – tough but unsophisticated.
‘The GRU took its officers from the trenches,’ he said, whereas KGB picked its agents from the USSR’s best universities.
The GRU headquarters in Moscow. The agency’s operatives were originally seen as rougher and less sophisticated than their KGB counterparts, according to former agents
The GRU would train agents and then send them to represent the Soviet Union abroad as military attaches in foreign embassies, according to historian John Barron.
But once a member of the GRU, it is believed to be exceptionally difficult to leave. And those who do so to joined foreign agencies were punished savagely.
A younger Sergei Skripal. He went on to unmask dozens of secret agents and feed information to MI6
Viktor Suvorov, a GRU officer who defected to Britain in 1978, said new recruits were shown a video of a traitor from the agency being burned alive in a furnace as a warning.
Unlike the KGB, the GRU was not split up when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
It has a special status and answers directly to the chief of the general staff, one of the three people who control Russia’s portable nuclear control system.
GRU chiefs are reportedly picked by Putin himself.
The GRU is now considered Russia’s largest foreign intelligence service, according to Reuters, dwarfing Moscow’s better-known Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), which is the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate.
Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in GRU , was considered by the Kremlin to be one of the most damaging spies of his generation.
He was responsible for unmasking dozens of secret agents threatening Western interests by operating undercover in Europe.
Col Skripal, 66, allegedly received £78,000 in exchange for taking huge risks to pass classified information to MI6.
In 2006, he was sentenced to 13 years in a Russian labour camp after being convicted of passing invaluable Russian secrets to the UK.
A senior source in Moscow said at the time: ‘This man is a big hero for MI6.’
He was sentenced to 13 years in a Russian labour camp when he was convicted of passing secrets to Britain
After being convicted of ‘high treason in the form of espionage’ by Moscow’s military court, Col Skripal was stripped of his rank, medals and state awards.
He was alleged by Russia’s security service, the FSB, to have begun working for the British secret services while serving in the army in the 1990s.
GRU, one of whose divisions has an emblem featuring a bat, was founded after the Russian Revolution
He passed information classified as state secrets and was paid for the work by MI6, the FSB claimed.
Col Skripal pleaded guilty at the trial and co-operated with investigators, reports said at the time. He admitted his activities and gave a full account of his spying, which led to a reduced sentence.
In July 2010, he was pardoned by then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and was one of four spies exchanged for ten Russian agents deported from the US in an historic swap involving red-headed ‘femme fatale’ Anna Chapman.
After the swap at Vienna airport, Col Skripal was one of two spies who came to Britain and he has kept a low profile for the past eight years.
The former spy was living at an address in Salisbury, Wiltshire, when the suspected poisoning took place in the city centre.
Russia says names of novichok poisoning suspects ‘mean nothing’ to them as it continues to deny links to attempted assassination of former spy – despite ‘killers’ flying in from Moscow
Russia said Wednesday it did not know the names of two Russians Britain has blamed for a nerve agent attack on a former spy and accused London of manipulating information.
‘The names published by the media, like their photographs, mean nothing to us,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
‘We once again call on the British side to switch from public accusations and manipulating information to practical cooperation through law enforcement agencies,’ Zakharova said in televised remarks.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said the names of the suspects mean nothing to Russia. Vladimir Putin previously claimed he had never heard of Sergei Skripal before the attack took place
Russia’s permanent representative at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Alexander Shulgin, called the UK statement a ‘provocation’.
‘Right from the start we said that Russia has nothing to do with what happened in Salisbury,’ Shulgin told Russian state television.
The Russian Foreign Office meanwhile tweeted the clip of the PM jerkily dancing in Africa last week sliced with a video of their press chief Maria Zakharova and her rhythmic moves.
Mr Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow that the names of the two Russian men suspected in the poisoning ‘do not mean anything to me’.
Mr Ushakov pointed to the fact that British authorities mentioned that they think the men’s names are aliases, and wondered ‘why this has been done and what kind of a message’ Britain is trying to send to the Russian government.
The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would not apply for their extradition but it added that it obtained a European arrest warrant for the two men.
A timeline of the key developments in the Salisbury poisoning case
2010 – Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer jailed for spying for Britain, is released and flown to the UK as part of a swap with Russian agents caught in the United States. He settles in Salisbury.
March 3, 2018 – Yulia Skripal arrives at Heathrow Airport from Russia to visit her father in England.
March 4, 9.15am – Sergei Skripal’s burgundy BMW is seen in suburban Salisbury, near a cemetery, where his wife and son are commemorated.
March 4, 1.30pm – The BMW is seen driving toward central Salisbury.
March 4, 1.40pm – The BMW is parked at a lot in central Salisbury.
A police officer stands guard outside the Zizzi restaurant where Sergei and Yulia had lunch before they collapsed in a nearby park
March 4, afternoon – Sergei and Yulia Skripal visit the Bishops Mill pub.
March 4, 2.20pm to 3.35pm – Sergei and Yulia Skripal have lunch at the Zizzi restaurant.
March 4, 4.15pm – Emergency services are called by a passer-by concerned about a man and a woman in Salisbury city centre.
Officers find the Skripals unconscious on a bench. They are taken to Salisbury District Hospital, where they remain in critical condition.
March 5, morning – Police say two people in Salisbury are being treated for suspected exposure to an unknown substance.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was among the first police officers on the scene and was himself hospitalised
March 5, afternoon – Wiltshire Police, along with Public Health England, declare a ‘major incident’
March 7 – Police announce that the Skripals were likely poisoned with a nerve agent in a targeted murder attempt.
They disclose that a police officer who responded to the incident is in serious condition in a hospital.
March 8 – Home Secretary Amber Rudd describes the use of a nerve agent on UK soil was a ‘brazen and reckless act’ of attempted murder
March 9 – About 180 troops trained in chemical warfare and decontamination are deployed to Salisbury to help with the police investigation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow might be willing to assist with the investigation but expresses resentment at suggestions the Kremlin was behind the attack.
March 11 – Public health officials tell people who visited the Zizzi restaurant or Bishops Mill pub in Salisbury on the day of the attack or the next day to wash their clothes as a precaution.
March 12, morning– Prime Minister Theresa May tells the House of Commons that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
March 12, afternoon – Public Health England ask everyone who visited Salisbury town centre on the day of the attack to wash all of their clothes and belongings.
Officers wearing chemical protection suits secure the forensic tent over the bench where Sergei and Yulia fell ill
March 14 – The PM announces the expulsion of 23 suspected Russian spies from the country’s UK Embassy.
March 22 – Nick Bailey, the police officer injured in the attack, is released from hospital.
March 26 – The United States and 22 other countries join Britain in expelling scores of Russian spies from capitals across the globe.
March 29 – Doctors say Yulia Skripal is ‘improving rapidly’ in hospital.
April 3 – The chief of the Porton Down defence laboratory said it could not verify the ‘precise source’ of the nerve agent.
April 5, morning – Yulia Skripal’s cousin Viktoria says she has received a call from Yulia saying she plans to leave hospital soon.
Dawn Sturgess died in hospital on July 8
April 5, afternoon – A statement on behalf of Yulia is released by Metropolitan Police, in which she says her strength is ‘growing daily’ and that ‘daddy is fine’.
April 9 – Ms Skripal is released from hospital and moved to a secure location.
May 18 – Sergei Skripal is released from hospital 11 weeks after he was poisoned.
June 30 – Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley fall ill at a property in Amesbury, which is eight miles from Salisbury, and are rushed to hospital.
July 4 – Police declare a major incident after Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley are exposed to an ‘unknown substance’, later revealed to be Novichok.
July 5 – Sajid Javid demands an explanation over the two poisonings as he accuses the Russian state of using Britain as a ‘dumping ground for poison’.
July 8 – Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, 44, dies in hospital due to coming into contact with Novichok.
July 10 – Mr Rowley regains consciousness at hospital, and later tells his brother that Dawn had sprayed the Novichok onto her wrists.
July 19 – Police are believed to have identified the perpetrators of the attack.
August 20 – Charlie Rowley is rushed to hospital as he starts to lose his site, but doctors can’t confirm whether it has anything to do with the poisoning.
August 26 – Charlie Rowley admitted to intensive care unit with meningitis
August 28 – Police call in the ‘super recognisers’ in bid to track down the poisoners
September 4 – Charlie Rowley’s brother says he has ‘lost all hope’ and doesn’t have long to live.
Independent investigators, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, confirm the toxic chemical that killed Ms Sturgess was the same nerve agent as that which poisoned the Skripals.
September 5 – Scotland Yard and CPS announce enough evidence to charge Russian nationals Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov for conspiracy to murder over Salisbury nerve agent attack.