Personnel bag samples as they swab railings near a bench covered in a protective tent at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 16, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack in Salisbury on March 4.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said March 16, the alliance did not want a return to Cold War hostilities with Russia while expressing support for Britain's strong stance on the nerve agent attack. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
NYT: GRU spies may be linked to UK poisoning
01:52 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

British officials believe the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter was likely carried out by the same Russian military intelligence service accused by the Justice Department Friday of meddling in the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times reported Sunday.

British investigators think the March 4 attack on Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, was “most probably carried out by current or former agents of the service, known as the G.R.U,” the Times reported, citing a current and former American official and a British official who all spoke to the paper on the condition of anonymity.

British officials are getting closer to identifying those they believe are responsible for the attack, the former American official told the newspaper. But investigators have not ruled out the possibility that another Russian intelligence agency or privatized spinoff might be responsible for the operation, the paper reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed any involvement by the GRU, the Times reported.

“Russia is in no way involved in this episode,” Peskov told the newspaper. “We consider this whole thing a major provocation.”

British officials have previously claimed that Russia was behind the poisoning of Skripal, who the Times said worked as an informant for MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied involvement in the attack.

The GRU, a Russian intelligence agency within the main intelligence directorate of the Russian military, “serves as an undercover strike force for the Kremlin in conflicts around the world,” the Times reported. The accusations of the service’s meddling in the 2016 election were made in a bombshell Justice Department indictment as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the election.

Among other things, the indictment accused the GRU of engaging in a “sustained effort” to hack Democrats’ emails and computer networks.

The agency has also been linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine and their annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Times reported.