Russia knows real names of men accused of trying to kill Skripals, says Putin

Vladimir Putin says Russia knows the real identities of two men accused of poisoning former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok.

But the Russian president claims the pair – named by Britain as spies Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – are civilians and there was "nothing special or criminal" about them.

Putin broke his silence on Wednesday after British authorities identified the pair suspected of trying to murder Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in March.

Putin said the suspects are known to Russian authorities and they have been found, as he rejected Britain’s claims that the pair work for the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.

Putin, speaking at an economic forum in the Russian port city of Vladivostok, claims the men haven’t done anything wrong and he hopes they will appear before the media to tell the world their side of the story.

He did not name the pair.

He said his officials "know who these people are".

British prosecutors last week identified two Russians who they said were operating under aliases and had tried to murder the Skripals with a military-grade nerve agent.

The men are thought to be aged around 40.

Prosecutors deem it futile to apply to Russia for the extradition of the two men but a European arrest warrant has been obtained and the authorities are also seeking the assistance of Interpol.

The Skripals were left critically ill after they were exposed to the military grade nerve agent, but both were later released from hospital.

A police officer who visited the home of the Skripals shortly after the attack, Nick Bailey, was also left critically ill from exposure to the substance.

Detectives have formally linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury when Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.

The UK has blamed Russia for the attack on the Skripals, but the Kremlin has denied allegations that it was involved.

The attempted murder of the father and daughter triggered a wave of diplomatic expulsions by both sides, sending relations to their lowest point since the Cold War.

British allies Canada, France Germany and the US have backed Prime Minister Theresa May’s claim that the suspects in the Salisbury nerve agent attack are Russian spies.

They agreed with the British assessment that the operation was "almost certainly approved at a senior government level" in Moscow.

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