One of the two men accused by the UK of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in March is a Russian military intelligence colonel whose real name is Anatoly Tchepiga, the investigative website Bellingcat reported on Wednesday.
The British authorities claimed that the attack with the Novichok chemical agent was carried out by two “officers” of the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, stating that they were probably fake names.
“The suspect using the false identity of ‘Ruslan Boshirov’ is actually Colonel Anatoli Tchepiga, a GRU officer decorated with high honours,” says Bellingcat, a UK-based website specialising in the collection and analysis of information available online.
The site published a photo of Anatoli Tchepiga’s 2003 passport, which resembles “Ruslan Boshirov” in the photo released by London.
According to Bellingcat, Tchepiga was born in 1979 in Nikolayevka, a village in eastern Russia. Having graduated from a prestigious military academy in this region, he later served in the Special Forces of Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), Bellingcat found.
According to the website of a regional branch of the DOSAAF paramilitary organisation, Tchepiga travelled to Chechnya three times while in the special forces, and received the prestigious “Hero of Russia” award in 2014.
There is, however, no official record of this award, traditionally awarded by the Russian President, suggesting that it was a classified mission.
Earlier this month Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the two men implicated by London were “civilians” who did not do anything “criminal”.
The two men were then interviewed by Russian public television RT, claiming to have gone as tourists to Salisbury, a city in southwestern England where the ex-double poisoned agent lived. Both men have denied being agents of the GRU.