Skripal suspect 'identified' as Russian military officer honoured by Putin
The Russian man has been accused of the Salisbury poisoning in March
One of the two men accused of carrying out the Salisbury poisoning has been identified as a high-ranking intelligence officer in the Russian military by Bellingcat, an independent open-source investigation website.
The man was previously believed to be Ruslan Borishov, 39. He is being sought by British authorities after allegedly attempting to kill Sergei Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 33, in the UK earlier this year with the Novichok nerve agent.
Putin himself claimed the two suspects, one of them Borishov, were both civilians, whilst both appeared on Russian TV in a now-viral interview in which they stated they visited Salisbury as tourists, to see the "famous cathedral and..." *checks smudged ink on palm of hand* "the 123m tall spire".
He has now been identified as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, an officer who served in Chechnya and Ukraine and was made a "Hero of the Russian Federation" by Putin in 2014. The award is “as recognition of services to the state and the people of Russia involving a heroic deed”.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has since dismissed the claims, stating there is no evidence.
Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who sold secrets to MI6, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with Novichok on 4 March. Both survived, but a British citizen named Dawn Sturgess died after being exposed to the substance in Wiltshire in July. Police officer Nick Bailey was also left critically ill.
Bellingcat has released a detailed biography of Chepiga, and claim he has received over 20 awards for his service to Russia over the course of his military career. It is now believed he transferred to Moscow in 2009, where he was given a false identity as Ruslan Boshirov. He has been working undercover for the past nine years.
He and the other suspect, Alexander Petrov, flew into Gatwick Airport from Moscow on 2 March 2018 and visited Salisbury on two consecutive days, including 4 March, which was the day of the poisoning.
Both suspects returned to Moscow on the same day. European arrest warrants and Interpol red notices have subsequently been issued for the pair, who are believed to have used fake passports to enter the country.
Speaking at the UN on Wednesday, Theresa May addressed Russia and its "desperate fabrication" in an attempt to cover-up the poisoning.
The prime minister said Russia had "flagrantly breach[ing] international norms" and condemned "the reckless use of chemical weapons on the streets of Britain by agents of the Russian GRU".