National Security

Suspect in Skripal attack identified in report as decorated Russian colonel

An open-source online investigative group has identified one of the suspects in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England earlier this year as a decorated officer in Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU.

Bellingcat released a report Wednesday saying that Ruslan Boshirov, one of the Russians charged by Britain earlier this month in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, is in fact a cover identity for Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, a GRU officer who has received Moscow’s highest honorary title.

{mosads}Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer recruited by Britain as a spy in the 1990s, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury in March with the Novichok nerve agent but survived the attack.

Britain, the United States and other allies blamed Russia for the attack. Moscow has denied involvement.

Earlier in September, British authorities charged Boshirov and another Russian, Alexander Petrov, with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder, identifying them as active GRU officers. Officials said when announcing the charges last month that they believed the names are aliases that the suspects used to travel abroad.

“The suspect using the cover identity of ‘Ruslan Boshirov’ is in fact Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated GRU officer bestowed with Russia’s highest state award, Hero of the Russian Federation,” Bellingcat said in the report issued Wednesday. “Following Bellingcat’s own identification, multiple sources familiar with the person and/or the investigation have confirmed the suspect’s identity.”

“This finding eliminates any remaining doubt that the two suspects in the Novichok poisonings were in fact Russian officers operating on a clandestine government mission,” the report said. 

The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Moscow over the poisoning and expelled dozens of Russian diplomats believed to be operating as intelligence officers in the United States. 

The GRU is the same Russian intelligence unit implicated in the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee. In June, special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 GRU officers in the cyberattacks against the DNC and digital U.S. election infrastructure.

The Russian embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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