Security Minister Ben Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Vladimir Putin has ultimate responsibility for the actions of his spies in carrying out the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
The MP said: “Ultimately he does, insofar as he is president of the Russian Federation and it is his government that controls, funds and directs the military intelligence – that’s the GRU – via his minister of defence.”
Wallace added: “I don’t think that anyone can ever say that Mr Putin isn’t in control of his state,” and the president was surrounded by serving and former intelligence officers.
“The GRU is, without doubt, not rogue, it is led, linked to both the senior members of the Russian general staff and the defence minister and, through that, into the Kremlin and the president’s office.”
The suspects in the Salisbury nerve agent attack, which left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia fighting for their lives, have been named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – believed to be aliases used by officers in Russian intelligence service the GRU.
Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs on Wednesday the GRU was “highly disciplined”, so the Novichok attack in Salisbury was likely to have been officially sanctioned rather than a “rogue operation”.
The Kremlin said Russia is not investigating the two suspects.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that May’s accusations are “unacceptable” and that “no-one in the Russian leadership” has anything to do with the poisoning.
He said Russia “has no reasons” to investigate Petrov and Boshirov because Britain has not asked for legal assistance on the case.