A new joint report by the open-source Bellingcat investigative team claims one of two men accused of trying to poison Sergei Skripal is actually a highly decorated military intelligence officer.
Bellingcat and the Russian-language The Insider 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.
The investigative reporters used leaked files to establish Chepiga, a colonel, was deployed to Chechnya three times and was awarded a “Hero of Russia,” Russia’s highest state award, in 2014.
"The only region in which Russia was conducting active military operations in secrecy at the time was in eastern Ukraine, which is the most likely theater of his mission, as suggested by the secrecy of his award,” Bellingcat writes in its report. Leaked passport files with old passport photos appear to show a young version of the same man British authorities have tied to the Skripal poisoning.
"This finding starkly contradicts both this man’s statements, as made in a TV interview to Russia’s state-run RT network, and President Vladimir Putin’s assertions that the person in question is merely a civilian named Ruslan Boshirov,” Bellingcat said in its report.
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the report in a social media post late on Wednesday, calling it "an attempt to distract attention from the main question: WHAT HAPPENED IN SALISBURY?"
"When will any sort of evidence be presented about the complicity of anyone in what London calls the poisoning in Salisbury?" she added.