'Real identity' of Russian Novichok poisoning suspect revealed

27 September, 2018, 17:27 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga

The two Russian are accused of poisoning former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March with the nerve agent novichok.

Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, said on September 26 that together with its investigative partner, the Insider, it had established that the man who was named as Ruslan Boshirov is actually GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.

Earlier this month, British prosecutors charged two Russians - Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov - with attempted murder for the Novichok poisoning of the Skripals in the southern English city in March but said they believed the suspects had been using aliases to enter Britain. The award is "as recognition of services to the state and the people of Russian Federation involving a heroic deed".

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on Bellingcat's latest claim.

It's understood counter-terrorism police and security services know Petrov's real name.

Citing a former Russian military officer, Bellingcat said it was very surprising that a highly decorated colonel was sent into the field.

He and the other suspect in the case, now still known as Alexander Petrov, were captured on CCTV in Salisbury on the day before and the day of the poisoning of the Skripals in March.

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President Putin has always insisted that the two men wanted in the United Kingdom for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, were just ordinary civilians on holiday.

The agency combines military intelligence gathering with elite special forces capability and in recent years has reportedly been active in the Syrian conflict, Chechnya and Georgia.

He is thought to have been working undercover for almost a decade, says Bellingcat, which traced his and "Petrov's" movements across Europe over several years. Other Russian soldiers who have recently received the award with few details mentioned have been found to be fighting covertly in eastern Ukraine or Syria.

In response to the Skripal poisoning, U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson said in a tweet earlier this month that the U.S. and Britain "stand firmly together in holding Russian Federation accountable for its act of aggression".

Reporters claimed the man pictured could be Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga and sources obtained extracts from his passport file, showing him in 2003 and 2009 in images "that strongly resembled a younger Boshirov". CCTV released by police showed the two men in Salisbury close to Skripal's house on the day of the poisoning.

In June, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.

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