‘Unusual activity’ at Russian embassy before novichok attack

‘Unusual activity’ at Russian embassy before novichok attack

Intelligence services investigated unusual activity at the Russian embassy in London in the days before and after the novichok poisoning, it has been reported. MI5, MI6 and GCHQ looked into “frantic comings and goings” at the building in Kensington in the days leading up to the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and…


Intelligence services investigated unusual activity at the Russian embassy in London in the days before and after the novichok poisoning, it has been reported.

MI5, MI6 and GCHQ looked into “frantic comings and goings” at the building in Kensington in the days leading up to the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, a source with knowledge of the investigation told the Press Association.

The source is quoted as saying: “The intelligence agencies have been investigating unusual and increased activity at the Russian embassy in Kensington in the days leading up to and after the attack on the Skripals”.

The lines of inquiry included looking at the “frantic and unprecedented” movement around the embassy at the time. “As would be expected, the UK security services have eyes on known and undeclared foreign intelligence operatives,” the source said.

Britain has accused Russia of being behind the attack. In March last year, Theresa May expelled 23 suspected Russian spies from the London embassy in the largest mass expulsion of diplomats since the cold war.

In September, Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service said there was sufficient evidence to charge two Russians, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with offences, including conspiracy to murder, after they were caught on CCTV in Salisbury the day before the attack. They are thought to be from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.

Yulia and Sergei Skripal

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Yulia and Sergei Skripal collapsed after coming into contact with novichok in Salisbury on 4 March 2018. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement, with the president, Vladimir Putin, claiming the two suspects were civilians. During a TV interview, the pair said they had been visiting Salisbury to see its famous cathedral.

In February, the high-ranking Russian military intelligence service officer Denis Sergeev was reported by the website Bellingcat to have been in Britain during the poisoning. He also reportedly visited Bulgaria in the days before a Bulgarian arms trader and his son were severely poisoned with an unidentified poison.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, collapsed after coming into contact with novichok at his home in Salisbury on 4 March last year. They recovered, but in July Dawn Sturgess, 44, died when she was exposed to novichok contained in a fake perfume bottle found by her partner, Charlie Rowley.

On Friday, counter-terrorism officers said they were still trying to find out where the perfume bottle was between the attack in March and the end of June when Rowley found it.

Deputy assistant commissioner Dean Haydon, the senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing, said: “A year on from the attacks, there are parts of the picture that we are continuing to piece together, and I am urging anyone who has information that they have not yet passed to police to do so.

“The information you have could be crucial to securing the prosecution of those responsible.”

The Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office both declined to comment. Neither the Russian embassy nor GCHQ responded when contacted by the Press Association.

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