Intelligence Group Claims Spy Poisoning Suspect is Highly Decorated Russian Colonel

Handout.  Reuters

A suspect in the nerve agent poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain in March is a colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, investigative website Bellingcat alleged on Wednesday.

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.

Chepiga served in Chechnya and was awarded the highest state medal - Hero of the Russian Federation - usually bestowed personally by President Vladimir Putin, Bellingcat said, adding that after its own identification of Chepiga, "multiple sources familiar with the person and/or the investigation have confirmed the suspect's identity".

"This finding eliminates any remaining doubt that the two suspects in the Novichok poisonings were in fact Russian officers operating on a clandestine government mission".

A passport photo of the man now identified as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga from 2009 (Bellingcat/PA)What has Russian Federation said? Britain has said the attack received approval "at a senior level of the Russian state", an accusation Moscow has fiercely denied.

UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson triumphantly tweeted thanks to Bellingcat for supposedly identifying one of the Sergei Skripal poisoning suspects as a Russian colonel. Skripal and his daughter were nearly killed after a Novichok nerve agent was sprayed onto the door handle of his home in the countryside town.

Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, said on September 26 that together with its investigative partner, the Insider, it had established that the man who was named as Ruslan Boshirov is actually GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.

The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4 on a bench in Salisbury. Rowley survived but Sturgess died from her contact with the poison.

She told the UN Security Council in New York: 'We have taken appropriate action, with our allies, and we will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our collective security. "Russia has only sought to obfuscate through desperate fabrication".

President Putin has always insisted that the two men wanted in the United Kingdom for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, were just ordinary civilians on holiday.

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.

After they were identified, two men using these names appeared on Russian television to insist they were mere tourists to the English city of Salisbury.

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