Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov unleashed the poisonous attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia at their home in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in March.
The Government knew the identities of the Russian agents from as early as April but withheld them in case tensions between the two countries boiled over while thousands of England fans were in Russia.
British authorities delayed naming Alexander Petrov (left) and Ruslan Boshirov until after the World Cup
The pair smeared novichok on the home of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in March
Scotland Yard withheld their identities to keep England fans safe in Russia. Pictured: They were caught on CCTV at Salisbury train station on March 3, the day before Mr Skripal was poisoned
‘It would have been unwise to identify the Russian agents before the World Cup. To have done so would have put a huge number of British nationals in Russia in possible danger,’ a Whitehall source told The Telegraph.
Petrov and Boshirov were known to police as early as April after being caught on CCTV at Gatwick, Heathrow and Salisbury.
Suspicions were all but confirmed when officers found traces of novichok in the London hotel room where the pair stayed.
British authorities made a ‘strategic’ decision to keep quiet about the suspects in the hope they’d make one more trip to Europe where they could be caught, according to the paper.
Their identities were also withheld over fears that England fans would be targeted in Russia.
Coincidentally, Theresa May revealed the names of both Russian men to MPs in the Commons on her first day back after parliamentary recess.
More than 10,000 fans travelled to Russia over the summer to watch The Three Lions compete in the tournament.
The development comes after it was revealed the Russian hitmen made at least six trips to Geneva prior to carrying out their attack in Salisbury.
This map shows the European cities visited by the two alleged assassins in the two years before the Salisbury attack. They made at least six trips to Geneva
Records show they booked nine separate flights to and from the Swiss city between November 2017 and February this year, according to records seen by The Telegraph.
Establishing who the agents met in Geneva is essential to the ongoing investigation, Whitehall sources said.
The tickets suggest they visited Geneva, the hub of international diplomacy, during sensitive Syria peace talks hosted by the UN.
Military personnel in protective clothing and gas masks decontaminate Sergei Skripal’s home today, more than six months after he and his daughter were poisoned
Items from the home in Salisbury were wrapped in tarpaulin and carried out into vans
Wiltshire Council confirmed the 67-year-old former Russian double-agent gave them his permission to decontaminate his home
Specialist military personnel have been drafted in to decontaminate Sergei Skripal’s home, more than six months after he and his daughter were poisoned by Novichok at the property.
Experts wearing protective suits were seen entering the Salisbury home as they began the cleaning process.
Wiltshire Council confirmed the 67-year-old former Russian double-agent gave them his permission to decontaminate his home – although officials were unable to say how long the process would take.
The front door of his £300,000 home is understood to be where military-grade nerve agent Novichok was smeared in an attempted assassination carried out by two suspects named this week as Russian spies.
The Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) along with Wiltshire Council today confirmed the decontamination process had begun on Mr Skripal’s home.
A notice posted by Wiltshire Council said ‘specialist contractors who have the necessary expertise to remove any traces of contamination effectively and safely’ will be involved in the ‘meticulous and thorough’ clean-up process.
And ‘no site will be released before a thorough assessment by the government’s Decontamination Science Assurance Group’.