Spy poisoning suspect is GRU colonel: U.K

Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga. Pic Bellingcat

Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga. Pic Bellingcat

The controversial cyber-sleuths claimed on Wednesday that one of the men named by the United Kingdom as a suspect in the "chemical attack" on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury this March is actually a colonel in Russian special forces.

Bellingcat said the man who until now has been known as Ruslan Boshirov is actually Anatoly Chepiga, who was born in a small town in Russia's Far East.

Skripal, who sold secrets to British intelligence agency MI6, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok on March 4.

The UK says the two had approval from the highest authorities in Russian Federation, a charge that Moscow has rejected.

The disclosure, uncovered by investigative journalist organisation Bellingcat in conjunction with The Telegraph, exposes as lies Mr Putin's claims that the Skripals'.

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Rushlan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov had already been roundly mocked for claiming that they were tourists in Salisbury and that a visit to the cathedral was thwarted by snow.

The group said that Chepiga's military school listed him among graduates bestowed with the Hero of Russian Federation award in December 2014, adding that the data signaled that he likely received the medal for his actions in eastern Ukraine.

The investigative group said it researched pictures of graduates of Russian military academies and found a man resembling Boshirov in a group photo.

Chepiga appears to have no social media accounts and there are no photographs of him online, the Bellingcat and Insider report said.

He and the other suspect in the case, now still known as Alexander Petrov, were captured on CCTV in Salisbury on the day before and the day of the poisoning of the Skripals in March.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin said the men had been discounted as members of his security network, and insisted they were civilians.

It is not clear why he received the award.

British authorities have yet to respond to the report. Boshirov said it was possible that they were near Skripal's house but did not know where it was. The pair survived but Dawn Sturgess - a woman not connected to the original attack - died in July after being exposed to the same substance.

He was initially named as Ruslan Boshirov by Prime Minister Theresa May in early September, though that name was believed to be an alias. Russia's foreign ministry has previously denounced Bellingcat, alleging the group is related to Western intelligence agencies.

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