The son of a woman killed after a Novichok attack against ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to hand over two suspects to the UK for questioning.
Monday marks one year since Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury, in an attack that stunned the region.
The pair recovered in hospital but Dawn Sturgess, who was accidentally exposed to the military-grade nerve agent, subsequently died.
Relations between London and Moscow deteriorated when the UK government pointed the finger of blame at two Russians it says are agents of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU.
Moscow has denied any involvement and the two suspects – who identified themselves as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – claimed they briefly visited the historic cathedral city as tourists. Putin has said the two men identified as suspects are “not criminals.”
“British police believe at least two Russian citizens were responsible for her death but it appears they are being protected by your state,” Sturgess’ son Ewan Hope wrote in a letter to Putin that was obtained by the Sunday Mirror newspaper.
“I am appealing to you as a human being to allow our officers to question these men about my mother’s murder,” he added. “The least she deserves is justice.”
Hope’s comments echo those made by Matthew Dean, the former leader of the city council who was in post at the time of the attack, who said Monday that while the city was rebounding from the attacks, it remained a “source of frustration” among residents that the suspects have not been caught.
Dean told the UK’s Press Association that the attacks had a severe impact on tourism to the city, which has only dissipated in recent months.
Prime Minister Theresa May also paid tribute to the city and its residents on Monday, calling the date “an important milestone for Salisbury as it emerges from the shadow cast by the use of chemical weapons on the streets of our country.”
“The fact Salisbury and the wider region has fought back so well from such a devastating and reckless incident is testament to the resolve, forbearance and positivity of the community,” she said.
On Friday the city was officially declared free of the nerve agent Novichok following a year-long clean-up operation.
In total, 12 Novichok-affected sites in Salisbury and Amesbury required some level of specialist decontamination, Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said in a statement on Friday. The final property to have been deemed safe was Skipal’s house, which was “extensively cleaned” and subjected to testing by specialist teams, DEFRA said.