Putin says Russia knows real identity of men accused by UK over Novichok poisoning
VLADIVOSTOK – Reuters
President Vladimir Putin said on Sept. 12 that Russia knew the real identity of two men accused by British prosecutors of trying to murder former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain.
British prosecutors last week identified two Russians who they said were operating under aliases - Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov - who they said had tried to murder the Skripals with a military-grade nerve agent in England.
Putin, speaking at an economic forum in the Russian port city of Vladivostok, said Russia had found the two men, that they were civilians, and there was nothing special or criminal about them and that he hoped they would come forward and tell the world their own story.
"We of course checked who these people are. We know who they are, we found them. Well, I hope they will come out themselves and speak about themselves. It will be better for everyone," he said.
"There's nothing particularly even criminal about it, I assure you. We'll see soon..."
"They are civilians of course. I would like to appeal to them so that they hear us today. They will come somewhere, to you, the mass media..."
Britain has said the two suspects were Russian military intelligence officers almost certainly acting on orders from high up in the Russian state. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incidents.
Skripal - a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service - and his daughter were found slumped unconscious on a bench in the English city of Salisbury in March. They spent weeks in hospital before being discharged.
A woman near Salisbury, Dawn Sturgess, died in July and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill after Rowley found a counterfeit bottle of Nina Ricci perfume containing Novichok and brought it home.
Peace deal offer to Japan
Russian President, sitting on a stage alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, proposed that the two men sign a peace treaty by the end of this year.
The two countries are in dispute over a chain of Pacific islands and as a result have still not formally ended their World War Two hostilities.
"An idea has just come into my head," Putin said, turning towards Abe, during a question and answer session.
"Let's conclude a peace treaty before the end of this year, without any pre-conditions."
Putin said security in the region was a key issue and that Russia was concerned by a move to establish a U.S. missile defense system there.
Japan decided last year it would expand its ballistic missile defense system with U.S.-made ground-based Aegis radar stations and interceptors.
"This is all the subject of negotiations... We have been negotiating for 70 years," Putin said.
"Shinzo said let's change approaches. Okay," Putin said, before proposing they sign a peace treaty.
Abe, who said on Sept. 10 that talks with Putin were moving towards a peace treaty, did not give a response.
N Korea should be given security guarantees: Putin
Putin also said that North Korea was taking a lot of steps towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but that Washington was not responding and was making endless demands for full disarmament instead.
Putin said it was counter-productive if one side did a lot and the other did nothing and said that Pyongyang was waiting for a response to the positive steps it had taken.
Putin also said it was important that North Korea receive international guarantees on its own security.