Last night, Theresa May ordered a covert war against Vladimir Putin's espionage network.
When chilling images of two smiling Russian agents carrying out the Salisbury poison attack were published, the prime minister said the security services would point to the GRU, the military intelligence unit for which they both work.
Cyber warfare, espionage, financial sanctions and the travel ban could be used, the sources said. Interpol has been on red alert to stop the two agents, who use the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
Russian agents Alexander Petrov, on the left, and Ruslan Boshirov, on the right, were captured on CCTV at Fisherton Road, Salisbury at 1.05 p.m. on March 4, 2018.
The Metropolitan Police has published images of the two alleged Russian agents, Alexander Petrov, on the left, and Ruslan Boshirov, on the right
Mrs. May warned that they would be taken to Britain to be tried if they ever left Russia. She blamed the Kremlin for the novichok attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March. And she hinted that the murder order could have come directly from Putin because only he has the power in Russian law to order murders abroad.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Commons, went further by saying: "President Putin has responsibility for a war act."
Russian agents are also blamed for the death of the mother of three Dawn Sturgess, 44, in July. She and her partner Charlie Rowley were poisoned when they picked up a bottle of abandoned perfume containing the novichok nerve agent.
Yesterday's events follow a large police investigation, which tracked the movements of Petrov and Boshirov towards Salisbury, where they sprayed novichok on the handle of Mr. Skripal's front door.
As the Kremlin faced the condemnation of the whole world:
- Britain called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council this afternoon;
- Ms. May spoke with Donald Trump and Canadian Justin Trudeau to seek support for new actions;
- From his bed at the hospital, Rowley, 45, said he wanted Petrov and Boshirov to appear in court;
- Moscow media said the couple had traveled extensively throughout Europe;
- A senior Russian diplomat was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a reprimand;
- Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve urged restrictions on all Russian travelers;
- The Kremlin dismissed the British accusations of the hand;
- Jeremy Corbyn was criticized for not having condemned Russia in the House of Commons.
The couple is accused of the murder of Dawn Sturgess, who picked up the novichok container discarded from the couple thinking it contained perfume and tried some in
His partner Charles Rowley, in the photo, managed to survive exposure to the deadly toxin
Ms. May acknowledged yesterday that it was futile to expect Russia to hand over the two murderers, in part because Russia has a constitutional impediment to extradition. He violently attacked Moscow's response to the novichok attacks, saying that requests for cooperation had met with "obfuscation and lies."
Parliamentarians were told that new powers were in place to stop anyone suspected of "hostile state activity" at the border.
The Russian oligarchs linked to Putin face repression, which includes searches of private flights and investigations of "unexplained wealth" by the National Crime Agency.
Ms. May said the retaliatory action would specifically target the GRU, the organization linked to the demolition of the MH17 aircraft in Ukraine, the attacks in Syria and the electoral fraud in the United States. She said it was clear that the Salisbury attack was not a dishonest operation and must have been approved at a higher level of the Russian state.
Bob Seely, a conservative parliamentarian and expert on Russia, said the order "could only have come from the Russian head of state."
The unprecedented statement of the Prime Minister came after Scotland Yard presented the results of its long investigation. After months of secrecy, the force revealed that it had not only identified the main suspects but had accumulated enough evidence for prosecutors to file charges.
The main target of the attack was the former KGB agent Sergei Skripal, on the right, who was visited by his daughter Yulia, on the left, in March when the initial attack took place.
The officers accused Petrov and Boshirov of conspiring to assassinate Mr. Skripal, and of the assassination attempt on Yulia and Det Sgt Nick Bailey.
The respected police officer was contaminated with novichok when he opened the front door of the Skripal house after its owners collapsed on a bank.
Investigators believe they know the identities of the two military intelligence agents, but chose to publish aliases used in their Russian passports.
They are asking people all over the world to get in touch with them if they can name their faces. The police obtained national and European arrest warrants, and presented red notices from Interpol, effectively confining the couple to their homeland.
But the Prosecution Service said it would not request his extradition because the Russian state refuses to deport its citizens to face a trial abroad.
It is believed that both men are agents of the GRU, for whom Mr. Skripal was a colonel before being imprisoned for selling secrets to the West. He was taken to the United Kingdom in an exchange of spies.
The novichok was brought in this perfume atomizer
In an attempt to silence the chorus of skepticism online about the case driven by the Russian trolls, the police gave a step-by-step account of the movements of the two-man assault squad. The still images of the closed circuit television showed that Petrov and Boshirov arrived in Gatwick and traveled through London before visiting Salisbury twice by train.
Dressed in quilted jackets, hats and carrying a backpack, the men reviewed the scene of their mission for recognition before returning the second day.
A camera caught the couple smiling and laughing a few minutes after carrying out their attack. At 10.30pm that night they were boarding an Aeroflot flight to Moscow from Heathrow, just over 50 hours after playing for the first time.
It is understood that the team of 250 detectives identified the two men as suspects in May while examining more than 11,000 hours of footage.
They were able to follow their steps carefully, driving to the City Stay Hotel, in Bow, east of London, where they spent the two nights. Forensic experts discovered a tiny trail of novichok in his room, a sample so small that it was carried away by the test swab.
In revealing the dossier of evidence, assistant commissioner Neil Basu said the couple had traveled extensively in Britain and abroad.
Basu, the country's leading anti-terrorist official, called it a remarkably sophisticated attack by "people familiar with this type of tradecraft."
Ms. May also told parliamentarians that the police had ruled out the possibility that Russia was behind 14 other deaths in the United Kingdom.