Putin says Skripal poisoning suspects are not criminals

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were formally accused of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Putin says Skripal poisoning suspects are not criminals

  • Putin urged the men to address the media saying there was nothing criminal about them
  • The British government has said Putin is ultimately responsible for the attack

VLADIVOSTOK: Russia’s Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that two men Britain suspects of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal with military-grade nerve agent had been identified as “civilians” and were not criminals.
Putin urged the men to address the media saying there was “nothing criminal” about them, as he spoke at an economic forum in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.
“We know who they are, we have found them,” Putin said at the forum attended by Japan’s Shinzo Abe and China’s Xi Jinping.
“They are civilians, of course,” he said, apparently responding to a claim by the British authorities that the two suspects are members of Russia’s military intelligence agency.
“I hope they will turn up themselves and tell about themselves” to journalists, Putin said in comments that hinted they could make a public statement shortly.
“There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you. We’ll see in the near future.”
British authorities have issued European arrest warrants for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, two suspected members of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.
They are accused of trying to kill Russian former spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the Novichok nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, in an attack London believes was sanctioned by the Kremlin.
The president himself had not communicated with the men since they were accused in the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Meanwhile, the Russia 24 state television channel played what it said was a call with suspect Petrov, who said he had “so far no comment, maybe later, next week, I think.”
Russian state media has reported that a man named Alexander Petrov worked for a pharmaceuticals company in the Siberian city of Tomsk and has denied any involvement in the case.
Shortly after Putin’s statement, Britain accused Russia of “obsfuscation and lies.”
“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March, and they have replied with obfuscation and lies,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters.
The British government has said Putin is ultimately responsible for the attack, a claim the Kremlin has furiously denied.
London and its allies expelled dozens of Russian diplomats after the poisoning, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow and plunging relations to a new low.
The Skripals survived the poisoning but a local man, Charlie Rowley, picked up a fake perfume bottle containing Novichok weeks later.
Rowley gave it to his girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess, who later died.
British prosecutors accuse Petrov and Boshirov of conspiracy to murder Skripal, attempted murder and the use of a banned chemical weapon.
They said they would not formally demand the men’s extradition, as Russia does not extradite its citizens, but have obtained a European Arrest Warrant for the pair.
The case has strong echoes of the poisoning of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in Britain in 2006.
Britain said Russians Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun were behind what it said was a likely Kremlin-backed killing, but the pair have never been tried and Lugovoi has since become a lawmaker in Russia.


Mission sets up emergency center for Bangladesh workers caught in Libyan conflict

Illegal migrants sit inside the Ganzour shelter after being transferred from in the airport road due to fighting in the Libyan capital Tripoli on September 5, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Mission sets up emergency center for Bangladesh workers caught in Libyan conflict

  • The wave of violence has also affected those Bangladeshis who have been living in Libya for many years
  • A round-the-clock control room service has been set up by the Bangladesh mission in Tripoli to protect Bangladeshi migrant workers since the latest clashes began

DHAKA: Construction worker Nurul Alam, 27, who became stranded in Tripoli, unable to move due to heavy gunfire surrounding his hideout, is one of 25 Bangladeshi migrant workers who have been rescued thanks to a 24-hour control center set up in the Libyan capital.
He was rescued after he contacted the Bangladesh Embassy for help.
His mother Jainab Akhter, 59, said her son had been living in Tripoli for four years, working for a construction company when he became stranded at Khalid Farjan in the city, trying to eke out his stockpile of food, but in such a vulnerable position that he did not dare to leave his hiding place.
“Due to heavy gunfighting, Alam could not come out on the streets to find a safer place. Although Alam talked to us every day from that stranded situation, it was like a nightmare for me. I prayed every moment to Almighty Allah to save my son’s life,” said Akhter.
Alam and three other Bangladeshi migrant workers were caught in sporadic battles between rival groups in Tripoli this month. After Alam contacted the Bangladesh Embassy for help they were rescued and taken to a safer location nearby.
A round-the-clock control room service has been set up by the Bangladesh mission in Tripoli to protect Bangladeshi migrant workers since the latest clashes began.
“So far, we have rescued around 25 Bangladeshi workers from different areas of Tripoli,” says Ashraful Islam, the first secretary of Bangladesh mission in Libya.
Islam told Arab News that when they receive an emergency call from a Bangladeshi worker, the mission immediately contacts the local Red Cross. The Red Cross initiates a cease-fire for few minutes by negotiating with the battling groups, then evacuates the stranded individuals.
“We will continue to run this emergency control room service until the situation returns to normal,” Islam added.
Around 8,000 Bangladeshi workers currently live in Tripoli, mostly unskilled migrant workers, Islam said.
“So far we have not received any information of Bangladeshi workers’ casualties resulting from recent clashes and our citizens are still in a comparatively safe position,” he said.
The wave of violence has also affected those Bangladeshis who have been living in Libya for many years. One such is Abdul Mannan Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi who has lived in Libya since 2009.
“One of the rival groups have taken my personal car to fight in the battle. Ten days have passed and they have still not returned my car,” he said.
The expat Bangladeshi businessman added that a state of anarchy now existed in the country. “I don’t feel secure in any part of this country, but I cannot leave as I have already invested a significant amount of money in business. We have been running for the past few years due to security concerns,” added Chowdhury.
Around 30,000 Bangladeshi expats currently live in Libya. The country stopped issuing visas to Bangladeshi workers in May 2015 following reports of illegal human trafficking. In recent years, hundreds of Bangladeshi migrant workers traveled to Italy from Libya through the risky boat journey.
Before the Libyan war, around 60,000 Bangladeshi workers worked for Libyan companies.