A group of British investigative journalists have identified a highly decorated member of the Russian military intelligence agency (GRU) as one of two men accused of trying to assassinate an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain earlier this year.
British prosecutors have charged two Russians, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, of trying to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Soviet nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.
On Wednesday, the investigative website Bellingcat reported that Boshirov was actually Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, who was awarded Russia’s highest honor — Hero of the Russian Federation — in 2014.
The New York Times reported that the Russian news outlet Insider has confirmed Bellingcat’s findings.
British authorities say the suspects arrived at London’s Gatwick airport two days before the poisoning took place.
Their journey from a London hotel to the crime scene in Salisbury was tracked by security cameras. The two men then flew out of Heathrow Airport back to Russia the same evening.
Boshirov and Petrov were charged in absentia with carrying out the attack. In an interview on the Kremlin-funded RT channel, they denied they were GRU agents and claimed to work instead in the nutrient supplements business. The suspects said they visited Salisbury to see its famous cathedral and did not know Skripal or where he lived.
Britain quickly rejected the claims.
“The government is clear,” Britain said, that the men “used a devastating toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country.”
Skripal and his daughter recovered from the attack, but a British woman who touched a discarded perfume bottle that contained the nerve agent died.
Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.