Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Second poisoning suspect ID’d as military doctor who works for Russian GRU

The passport of Alexander Mishkin who had been named as Alexander Petrov Image The passport of Alexander Mishkin who had been named as Alexander Petrov
Faye Gross | 10 October, 2018, 02:30

British prosecutors charged Mr Petrov and another man they named as Ruslan Boshirov with attempted murder for the Novichok nerve agent attack on the Skripals in the English city of Salisbury in March, but said they believed the suspects had used aliases to enter Britain. Amy Kellogg has the story.

The UK-based investigative website Bellingcat has said it has identified the second suspect in the Salisbury nerve agent poisonings as a doctor belonging to Russia's military intelligence agency the GRU.

Two former students at the academy confirmed Mishkin was the man British authorities identified as Alexander Petrov, Bellingcat said.

Bellingcat claimed to have uncovered his background by reaching out to some of his fellow academy graduates, with one confirming that they recognised Dr Mishkin as one of the men from the infamous Russia Today interview in which the two suspects identified by British police had claimed to have been visiting Salisbury on holiday.

The poison used, according to British authorities, was novichok, an especially unsafe nerve agent, and, analysts say, it was nearly certainly Mishkin's role to apply the poison, which is thought to have been smeared on the handle of Skripal's front-door.

Bellingcat has already identified Boshirov as highly-decorated GRU officer Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.

BRITAIN'S security minister has warned against underestimating Russian Federation, insisting the Kremlin is still intent on carrying out attacks on Britain and its allies - including cyber warfare, disinformation and assassinations.

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At a news conference in the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, Bellingcat investigator Cristo Grozev said Mr Mishkin - like Mr Chepiga - was a member of the GRU and given the celebrated award in the autumn of 2014 for "actions in Ukraine".

Both survived after weeks in critical condition, but Dawn Sturgess, a woman who authorities said came in contact with the poison after her boyfriend found a fake perfume bottle containing it, died in July.

The names on the pair's travel documents were Ruslan Boshirov (on the left above) and Alexander Petrov (on the right). Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins said one ex-student told the group that classmates had "been told not to talk to anyone about his identity".

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the attack and previously dismissed photos linking Chepiga to the GRU, but issued no comment when asked about the findings released about Dr Mishkin. Nor has the Kremlin been helped by other GRU agents in recent Russian espionage operations in Europe, who appeared also weak on the basics of traditional spycraft.

Last week, authorities in the Netherlands alleged that the GRU had tried and failed to hack the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. For several years he used, inexplicably say analysts, the address of the GRU headquarters as his home address.

The U.S. Justice Department also charged seven GRU officers in an alleged global hacking rampage that targeted more than 250 athletes, a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company, a Swiss chemical laboratory and the chemical weapons watchdog.

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