Bellingcat investigators say second Skripal poisoning suspect identified

Reuters

The Russian agent who a British investigative outlets identifies as a suspect in the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter has reportedly received a hero's honor from President Vladimir Putin. Amy Kellogg has the story.

A military doctor employed by Russia's GRU intelligence agency was one of the two suspects accused of carrying out the Salisbury nerve agent attack, an investigatory website claimed.

Bellingcat said on its website Monday that the man British authorities identified as Alexander Petrov is actually Alexander Mishkin, a trained doctor working for the Russian military intelligence unit known as GRU.

Mishkin had travelled to the United Kingdom under the assumed name Alexander Petrov with another Russian agent Anatoliy Chepiga, who came on the false identity of Ruslan Boshirov. The Skripals were poisoned by the Russian nerve agent Novichok, and while neither of them died, a British woman was later fatally exposed to the nerve agent.

Last month, Bellingcat, along with its partner investigators at the news-site Insider, identified the other suspected poisoner as special-forces veteran Anatoliy Chepiga, a colonel in the GRU.

Bellingcat said it gathered its information from open sources and "testimony from people familiar with the person".

United Kingdom police have accused both men of carrying out the operation to poison former Russian double agent, Sergey Skripal with a nerve agent in the small English town of Salisbury back in March.

Recent failings by Russian military intelligence (GRU) have made it easy to laugh at its spies but the West should not underestimate the skills of the Kremlin's once mighty espionage services, Britain's Security Minister said on Tuesday.

The father and daughter survived after a lengthy hospital stay in intensive care.

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At this time, the death toll is expected to continue to grow as rescuers reach areas that were previously cut off by rubble. The report further added that authorities had started to bury many of them in mass graves to prevent the spread of disease.

His GRU rank was unknown, it added.

The suspects were identified as GRU agents and Theresa May said their actions were not a "rogue operation" and would have been approved at a senior level in Moscow.

Officials in the Netherlands, where the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is based, said four Russians had been expelled after the alleged cyber strike. The two men had previously claimed to be Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, sports nutritionists with a passion for gothic-style cathedrals.

He was recruited by the secretive GRU, given the undercover identity of Alexander Petrov when he was stationed in Moscow and made multiple trips to Ukraine, the investigative group said.

Eliot Higgins, founder of investigative outlet Bellingcat, told CNN that Bellingcat sent an "insider", one of its partners in Russian Federation, to Alexander Mishkin's hometown of Loyga to speak to locals and further investigate Mishkin.

The "Petrov" passport noted the man had a previous passport issued in St Petersburg, and Bellingcat found just one match in St Petersburg databases for a man with the same first name and birth date: Mishkin.

Until early September 2014, Mishkin's registered home address in Moscow was Khoroshevskoe Shosse 76B - the address of the headquarters of the GRU.

Last week, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against seven members of the GRU, accusing them of hacking into the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as well as four global sports governing bodies.

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