Investigative Group Says It Has Unmasked Novichok Suspect

Bellingcat says Ruslan Boshirov is really Col. Anatoliy Chepiga
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2018 2:27 PM CDT
In this video grab provided by the RT channel on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, Ruslan Boshirov, left, and Alexander Petrov attend their first public appearance in an interview with the RT channel in Moscow,...   (RT channel video via AP)
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(Newser) – As the UK has alleged, Ruslan Boshirov is not who he says he is, at least according to an online investigative group. The Guardian reports Bellingcat and investigative partner the Insider say they have identified one of the men accused of poisoning the Skripals with novichok as a colonel with Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU. That man is Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, who fought in the war in Chechnya and in 2014 received the state's highest award: Hero of the Russian Federation. The BBC notes the award is generally given by Vladimir Putin, who has previously stated that Boshirov and companion Alexander Petrov are merely civilians; the men have said they traveled to Salisbury as tourists to see a well known cathedral there.

Bellingcat suspects the mission that spurred that honor was a secret one; while most recipients' heroics are described in detail, Chepiga simply received his award "by decree from the Russian president." As for how the alleged identification came to be, Bellingcat explains a source suggested it look at whether the men could have attended the Far Eastern Military Command Academy, which had "the best reputation for foreign-language training and overseas clandestine operations." It came upon a photo that it thought could be Boshirov and continued its web searching, which ultimately led it to Chepiga's name and passport file. A 2003 photo in the file "strongly resembled a younger 'Boshirov.'" The BBC had this to say: "British officials have not commented. The BBC understands there is no dispute over the identification."
(Read more Sergei Skripal stories.)

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