Salmond ‘does not know’ if Russia was behind Sailsbury nerve agent attacks

Conor Riordan
·3-min read

Alex Salmond has refused to be drawn on whether he believes Russia was behind the Wiltshire Novichok poisonings.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, died and her partner, Charlie Rowley, fell ill months after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to the nerve agent in Salisbury in 2018.

LBC presenter Iain Dale repeatedly asked whether the Alba party leader believes Russia was behind the attacks, which Mr Salmond said he did not know.

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Mr Salmond told the broadcaster: “What I’m happily prepared to say is I do not believe that two people associated with the GRU were in Salisbury because they wanted to pay a visit to Salisbury Cathedral.

“I didn’t think that was a particularly convincing story.”

Watch: Salmond: Duke of Edinburgh would not have wanted extended national mourning

On the issue of Russian troops at Ukraine’s border, he added: “I think there’s a substantial international dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

“And I’m delighted that, unlike (former) president Trump, President Biden last night said he was looking for a secure and stable relationship with Russia.”

Mr Salmond has presented a show on Russian-state TV channel RT through an independent production company, and has consistently asserted there is no editorial interference.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, died and her partner, Charlie Rowley, fell ill months after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to the nerve agent in Salisbury.

Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley collapsed after encountering a perfume bottle believed to have been used in the poisoning of the Skripals and then discarded. Mr Rowley recovered but Ms Sturgess died on July 8.

Two Russian nationals have been accused of travelling to the UK to try to murder Mr Skripal with Novichok, smearing the highly toxic substance on the door handle of his home in Salisbury.

Evidence gathered by intelligence agencies led the Government to conclude the men were officers from the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU.

Salisbury
Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the poisonings (Ben Birchall/PA)

The suspects – known by aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – were caught on CCTV in Salisbury the day before the attack.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement, with President Vladimir Putin claiming the two suspects were civilians, and the pair stating in an interview that they were tourists visiting Salisbury Cathedral.

Meanwhile, Mr Dale asked whether Mr Salmond was putting women and women’s issues at the front of Alba’s campaigning as a way to deflect from accusations made against him.

The former first minister was cleared of a number of sexual assault allegations at the High Court in Edinburgh in March 2020.

He said: “There are 18 women, some of the strongest feminist voices in Scotland, in the Alba party and I’m proud to have their range of candidates.

“I also happen to believe that the women and qualities paper that was passed by our conference, which is one of the first policies of the Alba party, is a valuable addition to the Scottish political debate.”

The Alba party leader described the biggest difference between his latest political project and the SNP as a sense of “urgency” for independence.

LBC carried out the interview as part of a series before the upcoming Holyrood elections in May.

Watch: Alex Salmond: Independence negotiations should start on day one of new parliament