Bellingcat identifies Skripal poisoning suspect as Russian colonel

Bellingcat identifies Skripal poisoning suspect as Russian colonel

Bellingcat identifies Skripal poisoning suspect as Russian colonel

They then obtained extracts from the passport file of Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga which contained a photograph that strongly resembled a younger "Boshirov", the report said.

The real identity of one of the two Russians blamed by Britain for the Salisbury nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal is Anatoly Chepiga, the investigative website Bellingcat says, adding that he was a decorated Russian colonel.

Britain has charged Boshirov and another suspect, Alexander Petrov, with trying to kill Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4 with the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury.

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.

In December 2014, he was made a Hero of the Russian Federation.

Russian military representatives pose in front of the memorial wall with Anatoliy Chepiga as the last name under the Gold Star honor list at the Far-Eastern Military Command Academy in Blagoveshensk, Russia May 24, 2017.

A Bellingcat journalist, who writes under the pseudonym Moritz Rakuszizky, said he believed the group would soon be able to identify the second suspect in the Skripal case.

The investigative group said it was "highly likely" that Putin - who this month claimed the two suspects are "civilians" - knows Chepiga because he personally hands out these awards.

It "would imply that 'the job was ordered at the highest level, '" the group quoted its source as saying, according to Agence France-Presse.

The two men have appeared on the state-funded RT channel, saying they visited Salisbury as tourists and had nothing to do with the poisoning.

The passport file contained a photograph - dated approximately in 2003, when this passport was obtained - that strongly resembled a younger "Boshirov" as seen in passport photos released by the United Kingdom police.

It is not clear why he received the award. The U.K.'s Metropolitan Police in a statement said they were "not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities". Britain and the USA, as well as its European allies, have condemned Russia for the attack, expelling dozens of Russian diplomats in retaliation.

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. Russia's foreign ministry has previously denounced Bellingcat, alleging the group is related to Western intelligence agencies.

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