Second Skripal poisoning suspect identified as Dr. Alexander Mishkin

10 October, 2018, 02:29 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Reuters

British police say two GRU agents travelling under the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov used a Soviet-made nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March. Amy Kellogg has the story.

The suspect was named yesterday by the Bellingcat investigative website as Alexander Mishkin, a military doctor in the GRU intelligence agency.

The controversial group said that Petrov's real name is Aleksandr Mishkin and he is "a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU", the Russian military intelligence service.

The British website has scooped the rest of the media with its reports on the nerve agent attack that almost killed the ex-spy and his daughter in England, providing evidence the Russians had identities far more intriguing than the aliases they used as supposed tourists. Russian President Vladimir Putin also insisted that Petrov and Boshirov were "civilians" and not agents of Russia's military.

The British open-source website said it had identified the suspect using testimonies from people the suspect knew and a scanned copy of his passport.

The GRU has come under the spotlight after its agents was accused of trying to hack the global chemical weapons watchdog investigating the Salisbury attack.

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".

In July, UK woman Dawn Sturgess died from what British police say was contact with the poison which her partner found in a discarded perfume bottle.

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According to the Bellingcat report, Mishkin was born in 1979 and grew up in the Arkhangelsk region in northern Russian Federation in a small town of 1,000 people called Loyga.

Incomplete border crossing data obtained by the site suggests that he travelled to the country on multiple occasions between 2010 and 2013, using his undercover persona of Alexander Petrov.

The unmasking of a second Russian intelligence officer suspected of carrying out a nerve-agent attack in England earlier this year is prompting behind-the-scenes fury in the Kremlin, which is likely to respond by purging the senior ranks of Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU, Russian media is reporting.

This was later refuted by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said that Russian databases have no information about Chepiga or about a Chepiga being awarded the highest national merit.

One of the Bellingcat team who ID'd the two GRU agents points out that the inclusion of a doctor on a 2-man team makes it harder to claim these guys were doing something other than handling a deadly nerve agent.

But Mishkin's cover identity had retained key details from his real identity, including his date of birth, as well as his first name and patronymic - a middle name based on a person's father's name, a practice that is common among Russians.

Bellingcat cross-referenced this information with other leaked databases, including a auto insurance database which identified the same man as the driver of a Volvo registered to the GRU headquarters.

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