Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two men whom British authorities charged in the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter have been identified as “civilians” who do not work for the military, according to Russian media and The Associated Press.
“We know who these people are; we have found them," Putin said at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Wednesday, according to the AP.
He added, "There is nothing special or criminal about it, I can assure you.”
After Putin’s comments, Russian state television reported that one of the suspects, Alexander Petrov, may break his silence sometime next week.
British authorities announced last week that Russian nationals Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov allegedly carried out the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England, earlier this year using a deadly nerve agent.
The men traveled on Russian passports and probably used fake names, the authorities said.
The British government has not responded to Putin’s most recent comments.
British Prime Minister Theresa May last week said the attack was “almost certainly” approved “at a senior level of the Russian state."
The British government also released detailed surveillance footage tracking the pair’s apparent movements and an image of the perfume bottle purportedly used to administer the nerve agent on the Skripals’ front door.
Putin asked the men to go public. "I would like to call on them so that they can hear us today,” he said Wednesday. "They should go to some media outlet. I hope they will come forward and tell about themselves."
Rossyiya-24, a state-owned news channel, reported that it has spoken to Petrov, according to Reuters. Petrov is a pharmaceutical company worker in Tomsk, Siberia, who, when asked for comment, reportedly told Rossyiya-24, “No comment for the moment. Maybe later. Next week, I think.”
If he does so, it would not be the first time an accused Russian assassin has answered international allegations through the Russian media. Andrei Lugovoi, the Russian man accused by the U.K. government of killing ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, used a news conference in 2007 to deny the charge and accuse U.K. special services of conducting the assassination, according to BBC News.
An Interpol Red Notice and European arrest warrant have been issued, though the Russian Constitution forbids them from being extradited.