Russian Spies’ Travels Across Britain Tracked in 11,000 Hours of Video Footage
Two Russian agents were tracked in video footage by authorities who allege the pair snuck into Britain in an attempt to kill a former Russian spy.
LONDON — Estimates have it that Britain sports one security camera per 11 citizens, making it one of the most heavily surveilled nations on the planet. Now Britain’s near blanket surveillance coverage is being hailed as key to tracking a pair of Russian men who stand accused of attempted murder in the March attack using the nerve agent novichok.
On Sept. 5, British authorities announced two Russian intelligence officers had been charged with attempted murder for the poisoning of Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter Yulia. The Russian agents allegedly entered Britain on a kill mission after flying from Moscow to London Gatwick Airport.
Their movements were charted in great detail as more than 250 Metropolitan Police detectives sifted through 11,000 hours of footage to piece together their journey to the scene of the crime in Salisbury, located about 90 miles west of London.
British authorities established that the Russian agents had carried out a reconnaissance trip to Salisbury prior to returning to the city and putting the novichok, carried in a bottle of counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume, on the front door of the Skripals’ home.
Investigators released a cache of evidence, including security camera images that captured the progress of the two men from an Aeroflot flight to the scene of the crime, and from there back to Moscow, the New York Times reported.
“It’s almost impossible in this country to hide, almost impossible,” John Bayliss, a retired officer from Britain’s electronic intelligence agency, told the newspaper. “And with the new software they have, you can tell the person by the way they walk, or a ring they wear, or a watch they wear. It becomes even harder.”
In the days after the March 4 attack, investigators began by collecting recorded video from ports, train stations, shop windows, car dashboards and the roadways around Skripal’s house. With the aid of various forensic resources, authorities tracked their whereabouts as they traveled from Gatwick Airport, upon arrival, to Salisbury.
The authorities were ultimately able to track the agents following the attack in Salisbury as they boarded the London Underground to London Heathrow Airport. From Heathrow Airport, they returned to Moscow. There is no evidence they have returned to the United Kingdom since.
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