Two more Russians reportedly arrested for plotting a cyber hack connected to poisoning

 nzherald.co.nz  9/16/2018 12:39:31 AM   Rhian Deutrom

A terrifying new twist has emerged in the Novichok poisonings in the UK, in which two Russian men allegedly attempted to murder a former KGB spy and his daughter with a deadly nerve agent, earlier this year.

The two Russian men, recently identified as Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, had been in the cathedral city of Salisbury in March, allegedly to visit a famous clock, when the attacks occurred, leaving one woman dead and her partner in hospital, reports news.com.au.

Reports have now surfaced that, following the attacks, two other Russian spies were plotting to hack into the computer systems of Swiss Spiez Laboratory which was analysing the Novichok agent.

Swiss publication Tages Anzeiger and Dutch paper NRC have reported that the two men, who have yet to be identified, were arrested back in March and detained in The Hague before being extradited back to Russia.

This case is seriously complex, it involves many moving parts and players, and reads like something out of a spy novel.

We have two Russians, claiming to be innocent tourists in an English city, at the exact time that a former Russian spy and his daughter are attacked with a deadly nerve agent.

We also have another innocent couple, exposed to the same deadly nerve agent, one of which dies days later.

The deadly nerve agent effectively shuts down a city, with officials in hazmat suits casing the streets in search of the perpetrators.

And now, we hear of the arrest of a second pair of Russians, who had been plotting a cyber attack of the Spiez Laboratory computers. The Swiss lab was testing the deadly nerve agent at the time.

You just cannot make this stuff up.

In an attempt to clear their name, Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov gave a bizarre television interview with TV network Russia Today, claiming they were simply in the area to marvel at it's many historical wonders.

"Our friends had been telling us for some time we should visit this wonderful town," Petrov said.

After an awkward silence in the interview, Boshirov filled it by clarifying they had visited the Salisbury Cathedral, which is famous for its "123-metre spire and its clock, one of the first ever created in the world that's still working".

Even British Prime Minister Theresa May isn't buying their story, slamming it as "blatant fabrications" this month.

The comments have prompted a backlash from Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov, who claimed the Kremlin had remained "unambiguous, transparent and consistent" throughout the entire saga.

"It is unacceptable to associate the Russian leadership or government with what went on in Salisbury,

"More so to blame Russia of lies following a statement by two civilians. These men are ordinary citizens with no relation to government".

It's safe to say it has been a big week for British and Russian relations...

So, in the wake of the claims and counterclaims in this extraordinary case, let's take a look at everything we know about the Novichok poisonings.

3pm:

Two Russian men arrive at Gatwick Airport, using business visas under the names of Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov. They had flown from Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2588.

5.40pm: The pair arrived at Victoria station in London around this time.

6pm: They then travelled to Waterloo station and onto East London before staying the next two nights at the City Stay Hotel.

11.45am:

The two men left their hotel and took a train to Waterloo station.

2.25pm: They took another train which arrived at Salisbury around this time.

4.10pm: Police believe the men left Salisbury for the day around 4pm and got back to their hotel at approximately 8pm.

8.05am:

The pair made the same journey from their hotel back to Salisbury where police believe they contaminated Skripal's front door with the deadly Novichok nerve agent.

9.15am: Sergei Skripal is seen driving his BMW in the city.

11.48am: The pair is seen arriving at Salisbury train station just before 12pm. They're spotted a few minutes later at a local Shell petrol station close to Sergei Skripal's home.

12pm: The attack is believed to have occurred around this time. The perpetrators are understood to have doused the front door of Skripal's home in Novichok.

1.05pm: Boshirov and Petrov are spotted in the city centre. It's not known how they got there.

1.40pm: Sergei and his daughter Yulia are seen in the city centre. Police suspect that the father and daughter may have been home when the perpetrators doused their front door in Novichok.

4.15pm: Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury city centre, after being poisoned by Novichok nerve agent. The pair spent weeks in a critical condition but have since recovered.

4.45pm: Petrov and Boshirov leave Salisbury back to Waterloo Station.

6.30pm: The pair hop on the London Underground, bound for Heathrow Airport where they take a 10.30pm flight back to Moscow.

Prime Minister Theresa May says there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that in response to the Salisbury attacks, his government had decided to expel "two Russian intelligence agents working at the Russian embassy', according to Dutch News.

The two men were arrested for plotting to hack into the computers of a Swiss chemical weapons laboratory testing Novichok nerve agent used in the Salisbury attack. The spies were allegedly found with high tech espionage equipment, designed to spy on the lab and were sent back to Russia but have not been charged.

Salisbury resident Charlie Rowley, 45, claims he found a perfume bottle, which allegedly contained Novichok. He takes it home to his girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess.

Dawn Sturgess a 44-year-old mother-of-three becomes ill after she was exposed to the Novichok nerve agent. It is understood she sprayed herself with the perfume bottle her partner Charlie Rowley brought home.

Charlie Rowley also becomes ill later that day and spent three weeks in hospital.

Dawn Sturgess dies in hospital.

Police carry out tests in the hotel room where the two Russian men had stayed. The results showed the presence of Novichok agent. European arrest warrants and Interpol red notices have been issued, meaning the men can be arrested if they leave Russia.

British authorities said they had obtained a European arrest warrant for two Russians blamed for a nerve agent attack on a former spy in the city of Salisbury in March. Prosecutors said they wanted Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov for trying to kill Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the chemical Novichok.

Boshirov and Petrov appear in on the state-funded television channel Russia Today to protest their innocence.

They were interviewed by Margarita Simonyan and it made for some interesting viewing.

When asked what they were doing in the UK, Petrov said they were there for a mix of business and pleasure.

"We planned to go to London and let loose, so to speak, it wasn't a business trip," he said.

"We came to Salisbury on the March 3...we tried to walk around the city, but since the city was covered in snow, we were able to only for a half an hour, we got wet".

Strangely, the pair withdraws into a conversation between themselves when asked if they visited Sergei Skripal's home when they were in Salisbury.

Petrov: Maybe we went by there.

Boshirov: Do you know where the Skripals' home is? I don't.

Petrov: If we would have known where it was.

Boshirov: Maybe we passed by it, maybe we didn't pass by it, I don't know, I hadn't heard. I hadn't heard this surname, I didn't know anything about them before this situation, this nightmare with us started.

Tensions between Britain and Russia have escalated, with a Kremlin spokesman claiming it would not allow the UK access to the accused spies, according to The independent.

"We don't organise interviews with citizens of Russia," Dmitry Peskov said.

"There are mechanisms to provide legal assistance... if the British decide to make an application, we will respond strictly according to law."

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