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British Government Names 2 Russian Men Charged In Nerve Agent Attack


The British government says two Russian men were behind the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in England last March. The men have been charged in absentia with attempted murder. Prime Minister Theresa May identified them as Russian intelligence officers acting with the Kremlin's approval when they used the nerve agent Novichok in the attack. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from London.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Speaking in the House of Commons this morning, Theresa May laid out a timeline of events.


PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: They arrived at Gatwick Airport at 3 p.m. on Friday, the second of March, having flown from Moscow on flight SU2588.

LANGFITT: Traveling on Russian passports under the assumed names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the men checked into a budget hotel in East London.


MAY: They stayed there on both Friday and Saturday evenings, and traces of Novichok were found in their hotel rooms.

LANGFITT: The men took the train to Salisbury, where they were spotted on security cameras near the home of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. Police believe they sprayed Novichok on the door handle of Skripal's house. That afternoon, the Skripals were found collapsed on a park bench. By 10:30 that night, May said the men were on a flight back to Moscow.

But with no hope of extradition, May seemed to be using the charges to embarrass Russian President Vladimir Putin.


MAY: We will not tolerate such barbaric attacks against our country.

LANGFITT: Oliver Bullough is a journalist who's written two books on Russia.

OLIVER BULLOUGH: These are not the actions of a sort of law-abiding member of the community of nations. This is practically rogue state behavior. And I suppose by revealing it and exposing it as publicly as Theresa May has done, she's hoping that that message will get across to some of the allies that tend to see the better side of Mr. Putin rather than the worse side.

LANGFITT: Russia continues to deny any involvement in the attack.


MARIA ZAKHAROVA: (Speaking Russian).

LANGFITT: Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the names and photos of the suspects indicate nothing. And she told the British to stop manipulating information and work with Russian law enforcement to solve the case. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.