Factbox-Who are the suspected Skripal poisoning behind the deadly Czech explosion?
This content was published on April 18, 2021 – 18:53
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Czech Republic has identified the same suspected Russian military intelligence officers wanted by Britain for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal as suspects in a deadly 2014 explosion at an ammunition depot.
The men, known by the pseudonyms Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, are said to be part of the elite 29155 unit of the Russian GRU’s military intelligence service.
The unit, according to a 2019 New York Times report, focuses on subversion, sabotage and assassination outside of Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said after its publication that the article amounted to “pulp fiction”.
Britain charged the men in absentia with attempted murder in September 2018 after Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in the English town of Salisbury in 2018. The Skripals survived, but one member of the public has died. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the incident.
Following the Skripal attack, the Bellingcat investigation website stated that Boshirov’s real name was Anatoliy Chepiga. He said the 42-year-old was a decorated military intelligence colonel from Far Eastern Russia who had taken part in wars in Chechnya and Ukraine.
Asked at the time about the Bellingcat report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “A lot of people look alike, but I can’t tell you who this citizen is who was pointed out in this investigation.”
After President Vladimir Putin called on the Skripal poisoning suspects to come forward and tell their story, they gave an interview to state broadcaster RT, under their pseudonym.
Boshirov said he was just a civilian who traveled to Salisbury in March 2018 not to poison Skripal but for sightseeing.
“There is the famous Salisbury Cathedral. It is famous not only in Europe, but around the world. It is famous for its 123 meter spire. It is famous for its clock, one of the first ever created in the world. that still works, ”Boshirov said, appearing to recite information available on the cathedral’s Wikipedia page.
Boshirov said he and Petrov, the other suspect identified by Britain in the Skripal poisoning, walked around Salisbury to take in the beauty of its Gothic buildings.
Bellingcat identified Petrov as Alexander Mishkin, claiming that he was born in July 1979 in northern Russia and trained as a medical officer. He was then recruited by the GRU, according to the investigation website.
In the 2018 interview with RT, Petrov said their first attempt to visit Salisbury was cut short because “the town was covered in slush” but the couple returned on another day.
A man and woman were poisoned in the nearby town of Amesbury in June 2018 after police believed they had handled a bottle of Nina Ricci perfume containing Novichok. The woman, Dawn Sturgess, has passed away.
Petrov said the men did not travel to Britain with the perfume bottle.
“Why would men need a feminine scent?” he said.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Frances Kerry)