Russian ex-spy poisoning suspect is GRU colonel, investigative group says

Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga. Pic Bellingcat

Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga. Pic Bellingcat

A group of investigative reporters claim they have discovered that one of the two suspects involved in the Salisbury nerve agent poisonings earlier this year is a highly decorated colonel from Russian military intelligence.

Boshirov and another man whose passport name is Alexander Petrov, have been charged in the U.K.in the March attack in Salisbury on the Russian ex-double agent Skripal and his daughter Yulia using the Novichok, a type of nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson appeared to confirm the Bellingcat findings in a tweet but later deleted the message, which said: 'The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian colonel'.

The Bellingcat group said it has confirmed Ruslan Boshirov, who British authorities have accused of the attack, is actually Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.

Russian Federation has always denied the allegations and President Vladimir Putin said the suspects were civilians.

The other suspect was identified by prosecutors as Alexander Petrov.

They are also wanted for the attempted murder of Col Skripal and his daughter Julia.

A former senior Russian military officer said Chepiga's ranking and experience suggested "the job was ordered at the highest level".

Russian Federation to provide Syria with new S-300 air defence missiles
For its part, Israel is wary of Iran's growing influence in Syria, which is bringing its archenemy closer to its borders. The Syrian missiles were defending against Israeli planes that were bombing Iranian targets in Syria .

Ruslan Boshirov's real identity was claimed to be Colonel Anatoly Chepiga, who served in an elite commando unit and received the decoration of Hero of Russian Federation - the country's highest award - in 2014, according to Bellingcat. He was then assigned to serve in the 14th Spetsnaz Brigade in Russia's farthest-eastern city of Khabarovsk, one of the elite Spetsnaz units under GRU command.

The Russian Embassy in London was not immediately available to comment.

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.

United Kingdom authorities believe the pair smeared the highly toxic chemical Novichok on a door handle at the Wiltshire home of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal, leaving Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia critically ill on March 4.

The prime minister said Russia had "flagrantly breach [ing] worldwide norms" and condemned "the reckless use of chemical weapons on the streets of Britain by agents of the Russian GRU".

It is not clear why he received the award.

The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4 on a bench in Salisbury. The pair survived but Dawn Sturgess - a woman not connected to the original attack - died in July after being exposed to the same substance.

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