The committee heard that 250 counter-terrorism police have identified more than 240 witnesses and are looking at more than 200 pieces of evidence.
Earlier in the working day, in a typically sarcastic observation, the Russian embassy tweeted:” What a coincidence! Both Litvinenko and Skripal worked for MI6. Berezovsky and Perepilichny were linked to UK special services. Investigation details categorized on grounds of national security .”
Alexander Litvinenko was a former policeman with Russia’s FSB security service who was poisoned with polonium in 2006. An official report indicated the assassination had been carried out by two Russian agents with a “strong possibility” that they were acting on behalf of the FSB.
Boris Berezovsky was the exiled Russian oligarch and chief critic of Putin who was detected hanged in 2013. A coroner recorded an open verdict.
” All those who knew him believe it is difficult to think he would have committed suicide ,” told Yuri Felshtinsky, who co-wrote a book with Litvinenko, Blowing Up Russia.
Alexander Perepilichny collapsed after jogging near his home in Surrey in 2012. He had been helping a Swiss investigation into a Russian money-laundering scheme linked to the Kremlin, and there is speculation that he might have been murdered.
Berezovsky and Litvinenko are alleged to have introduced ratings of Russian agents to the former MI6 agent who turned Skripal and is understood to still satisfy him regularly.
The explicit linking of the Salisbury attack to three critics of the Kremlin, all of whom are dead, represents a further low phase in relations between London and Moscow.
It came after Moscow officials described the suggestions that the Skripals could have been targeted by Kremlin hitmen as part of an attempt to demonise Russia.” This is pure propaganda, and the pure whipping-up of hysterical outbursts and hysteria ,” told Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister.
However, Sir Andrew Wood, the British diplomat to Russia from 1995 to 2000, said that he had no doubt that the attack, using a nerve agent available only to a few countries, had been sanctioned from within Russia, although probably not immediately by Putin.
” It’s a terrible thing to have done ,” Wood told.” It’s typical of the state that Russia is in and it’s very hard to see what profit they can get from this. It advertises the fact because this is vindictive and dedicated to seeking retaliation .”
He called for the British government to seek a coordinated reaction.” We should look at how we do or don’t implement the Magnitsky Act, talk to our transatlantic allies and those in Europe – it’s just as much an attack on them as us .”
The Magnitsky Act- named after a lawyer turned whistleblower who died in prison after helping expose the same money-laundering scheme identified by Perepilichnyy- would give the UK government the human rights of freeze assets and prevent the entry of people associated with human rights abuses and corruption.
Westminster is understood to think that the UK gains few benefits from good relations with Putin, and Boris Johnson’s visit to Moscow was not deemed a success.
In Salisbury, police and military personnel continued to gather forensic proof at several sites visited by the Skripals and removed a couple of ambulances and a police car. Forensic squads also continued to examine the tombs of Skripal’s son and spouse. It is understood that there has been no application to the Ministry of Justice to have the graves exhumed, indicating that either police do not have anything to substantiate suggestions that either succumbed by pollute entails or they believe such a move would not currently help their investigation.
Late on Saturday, the BBC reported that it understood traces of the nerve agent use against the Skripals had been discovered at the Zizzi restaurant where they ate just hours before collapsing on a park bench in Salisbury. The report also said nobody else in the restaurant at the time would have been in any threat.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan police, which is leading the investigation, refused to comment on the report.
DS Nick Bailey, the officer taken ill after attending the scene and who is recovering, released a statement earlier in the day saying ” he does not consider himself a hero” and was ” simply doing his task “.
Bailey visited the Salisbury home of Skripal after he and Yulia were found slumped on a bench in the city centre. Examiners want to know if he was contaminated during that visit, or whether he visited the scene where they were found and was poisoned there or by items there. Sources say that it is believed to be more likely that Bailey became contaminated at the home.