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By John Helmer, Moscow

A stitch in time saves nine. That’s what police and prosecutors used to say when they were in hot pursuit of criminals. Hot pursuit used to mean no waiting.  

However, the Metropolitan Police (lead image, left) took three years before announcing that Denis Sergeyev (alias Sergei Fedotov), a Russian military intelligence officer (right), is the third suspect in the alleged Novichok attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal. That took place on March 4, 2018, allegedly. Six months later, the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) formally announced their indictments of two men, Alexander Petrov (Alexander Mishkin)  and Ruslan Boshirov (Anatoly Chepiga), on September 5,  2018. The police acted simultaneously with the prosecutors; their timing also coincided with the announcement to parliament by Prime Minister Theresa May.

The police evidence, declared May, “has enabled the independent Crown Prosecution Service to conclude they have a sufficient basis on which to bring charges against these two men for the attack in Salisbury.”  

“We have obtained a European Arrest Warrant and will shortly issue an Interpol red notice,” May added in her speech to the House of Commons.

Sue Hemming, head of the CPS, announced at the same time: “A realistic prospect of conviction means the CPS is satisfied on an objective assessment that the evidence can be used in court and that an objective, impartial and reasonable jury hearing the case, properly directed and acting in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to convict these two individuals of the charges… We will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of these men as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals… We have, however, obtained a European Arrest Warrant which means that if either man travels to a country where an EAW is valid, they will be arrested and face extradition on these charges for which there is no statute of limitations.”

Hemming said nothing about an Interpol Red Notice; Interpol confirms none was issued for either Russian.   

Fast forward – no, wait, make that slow-motion forward, until September 21, 2021, when Dean Haydon, a deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, announced he is charging Sergeyev (Fedotov) with the same attempted murder by Novichok.  The police had delayed for three years. The CPS for longer. In fact, as the CPS has now officially admitted, it hasn’t charged the third man with anything, yet.

On October 11, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the CPS reported that it has not issued an arrest warrant charging Sergeyev (Fedotov) with a Novichok crime. This is notwithstanding the statement by police commissioner Haydon that “Counter Terrorism Policing can today, Tuesday, 21 September, confirm that charges have been authorised against a third person in relation to the ongoing investigation into the Salisbury Novichok attack.”

Left to right: Denis Sergeyev (Fedotov); Metropolitan Police commissioner Dean Haydon; Nick Price, head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism division of the CPS. Price was a barrister in London before he became a state prosecutor.   For detailed analysis of Haydon’s statement, read this.  

As Haydon briefed the press on September 21, Nick Price, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, issued a statement of his own.  “Our specialist prosecutors have considered the additional evidence against the third suspect,” Price claimed, “and have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is clearly in the public interest to charge Sergey Fedotov, who is a Russian national, with a number of offences including conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and the use and possession of a chemical weapon. We will not apply to Russia for the extradition of Sergey Fedotov as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals.”  

“A realistic prospect of conviction means that the CPS is satisfied on an objective assessment that the evidence can be used in court and that an objective, impartial and reasonable jury hearing the case, properly directed and acting in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to convict Sergey Fedotov of the charges. It is of course for a jury to decide whether the evidence is enough for them to be sure of the suspect’s guilt.”

Price is a courtroom lawyer; read exactly what he says and compare it with the CPS statement three years before. Price is not saying the British prosecutors have charged Fedotov, as the Met has announced. Not only that.  Price does not say that arrest warrants, European or British, have been issued against him.  Instead, Price said:  “The CPS has authorised the Metropolitan Police to charge a third suspect, Sergey Fedotov, in relation to the 2018 Salisbury Novichok attack.”

On September 5, 2018, the CPS had explicitly said the prosecutors under Price’s command were charging Petrov and Boshirov with attempted murder and with “use and possession of Novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act”.  Price and the CPS are not making either of these allegations against the third man, Sergeyev (Fedotov).

These were the allegations in 2018 against the first two Russians:

Source: https://www.cps.gov.uk/

Three years later, almost to the day, the Met evidence against Sergeyev (Fedotov) is, according to Haydon: “Enquiries identified a man known as ‘Sergey Fedotov’ entering the UK at approximately 11:00hrs on Friday, 2 March 2018 on flight from Moscow to London Heathrow. This was around four hours prior to Petrov and Boshirov arriving from Moscow into Gatwick Airport.  Detectives identified that Fedotov stayed at a hotel in central London between 2 March and 4 March 2018. Tests were carried out in the room Fedotov is believed to have stayed in, but no traces of Novichok and no risk to the public were identified from these. Evidence gathered by the investigation team suggests that Fedotov met with Petrov and Boshirov on more than one occasion in central London over the course of the weekend. Fedotov left the UK on Sunday, 4 March 2018 on a flight to Moscow departing from Heathrow at approximately 13:45hrs.”

All that is missing from the police statement on Sergeyev (Fedotov) is evidence of the alleged weapon, the alleged motive, the alleged intention, and the alleged opportunity to attack the Skripals in Salisbury, 90 miles  southwest of London.  

A Freedom of Information request was filed with the CPS to clarify whether it had put its arrest warrant where Haydon’s mouth said it was. The official reply is that it has not, but that the prosecutors are “in the process of applying for an arrest warrant for Sergey Fedotov”.

 The CPS reference to the British Trade and Cooperation Agreement 2020 is to the omnibus  treaty regulating UK and European Union relationships after Brexit took effect.

Last month Haydon told the press “the process of applying for Interpol notices will commence for Sergey Fedotov today, with Interpol Notices already in place for both Petrov and Boshirov.” Interpol’s Red Notice system shows no record for any of the Russians.

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