The UK police released images and CCTV footage of two individuals suspected of attempting to assassinate Sergei Skripal, and according to Mark Galeotti, a political scientist and Russian security expert, this was a necessary step for London.
In an interview with the French outlet Libération, Galeotti suggested that Moscow-London relations had hit rock bottom, and couldn’t deteriorate further.
“London has promised to carry out cyberattacks against the GRU. […]The public will never know whether these attacks were actually conducted or not. It is mainly a rhetorical arsenal that is being deployed. I don’t think that there will be any new major sanctions. We are bogged down in a semi-cold war moment,” Galeotti said.
At the same time, the analyst believes that the latest developments in the investigation of the Skripal case are aimed at distracting Britons from Brexit.
“But it is also London’s attempt to refresh the memory of its allies six months after the events took place and not to let the Skripal case languish in the archives. The British authorities have known these names for some time,” he suggested, adding that they had to reveal information to the public so that nobody suspected they had nothing to present.
Earlier this week, Scotland Yard published photos of two men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who the UK prosecutors now regard as suspects in the alleged poisoning attack against the Skripal family in March.
Later on Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a speech in the UK parliament, claiming that the suspects were “officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU,” and that it [the alleged attack] was “almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.”
Responding to the fresh claims, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the UK’s ambassador to Russia had rejected a request to provide further details on the suspects, including their fingerprints, which she emphasized, were a requirement for Russian citizens trying to obtain UK visas.
"The UK has refused to provide any data … Apparently, if they [the UK authorities] do not provide official data to Russia, then we will have to wait for their request to Interpol, and then wait for Interpol to provide us with the fingerprints and so on," Zakharova said a few days later at a briefing.
In March, Sergei and his daughter Yulia were found collapsed on a park bench in the British town of Salisbury after allegedly being exposed to a military-grade nerve agent, later identified by the UK as Soviet-made Novichok.