- Chemical weapons attack on former double agent in Salisbury in March sparked huge police investigation
- Former Russian spy, his daughter and a police officer were saved but a British mother-of-three died
- Prosecutors and police have now named two prime suspects, who flew to Russia hours after the attack
- Police release images of pair grinning on day of attack, along with images of the perfume bottle they used
- Theresa May reveals the men being hunted are Russian spies working for GRU military intelligence service
- But Russia denies any knowledge of the pair - despite them having flown in from and returned to Moscow
Two Russian spies became Britain's most wanted men today after they were named as the prime suspects in the Novichok chemical weapons attack in Salisbury.
Astonishing CCTV images show Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov grinning as they walk around the Wiltshire city on the day former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the military-grade chemical weapon.
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.
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.' 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.
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
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.
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.'
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.
Why Russia would not extradite 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.
In 2007, Putin rejected an extradition request for two Russians suspected of the assassination of the former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London using radioactive polonium.
A Whitehall source previously said any extradition request in the Salisbury would be 'Litvinenko all over again'.
Mrs Sturgess's former home in Salisbury was closed off by police in July as her death meant the investigation became a murder probe
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.'
Police urge guests who stayed at budget London hotel used by 'Russian assassins' to contact them... four months AFTER finding 'low' levels of Novichok toxin in £48-a-night room where the pair spent two days
Guests who stayed at the hotel used by two Salisbury poison suspects are urged to contact police after 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.
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.
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 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
He 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.'