A group of investigative journalists and researchers on Monday identified a military doctor employed by a Russian intelligence agency as one of two men suspected by the British authorities of trying to kill a former Russian spy with a potent nerve agent in Britain earlier this year.
The group, which named the other suspect in the poisoning about two weeks ago, identified the doctor as Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin. It said he was a graduate of an elite military medical academy who was recruited by a military intelligence agency widely known as the G.R.U.
Last month, British prosecutors filed criminal charges against two Russian men they say traveled in March to Salisbury and poisoned the former spy, Sergei V. Skripal, by smearing the nerve agent on a door handle at his home. Mr. Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, was also poisoned.
The authorities said the men, who were captured on surveillance video near Mr. Skripal’s home, had traveled to Britain using the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. While the men were identified as G.R.U. officers, their true names were not disclosed.
British officials could not be immediately reached on Monday evening for comment on the new report, which was prepared by researchers and journalists in Britain and Russia.
The Russian authorities have denied any involvement in the poisoning, and days after the charges were filed, the two suspects gave an interview to Russian state television in which they claimed to be sports nutritionists. They said they had traveled to Salisbury to admire its Gothic cathedral.
But in a series of reports over the last month, researchers from the investigative group Bellingcat and a Russian news outlet, The Insider, have tried to uncover details about the suspects. They said they had discovered passport information linked to the men’s aliases that showed extensive travel, as well as ties to the Russian security services. And they released the names.
They reported that Mr. Boshirov’s real name is Col. Anatoly V. Chepiga, a 2014 recipient of the title Hero of the Russian Federation, most likely for service in Ukraine’s civil war, and released photos of his name chiseled into a war memorial at the Far Eastern military academy where he studied. Only a few officers each year receive the award, which is typically given personally by President Vladimir V. Putin.
In its report Monday, the group said Mr. Petrov was really Dr. Mishkin — but it said the information about him was more sparse. It published a copy of his passport, which was issued in 2001 in Arkhangelsk region along the White Sea.
“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents,” the group said.
Dr. Mishkin received his alias, Alexander Petrov, upon moving to Moscow in 2010, Bellingcat reported. Before traveling to Salisbury, it said, he used the identity to travel extensively in the former Soviet Union, including several trips to Ukraine as well as to the breakaway Moldovan republic of Transnistria.
The group also said that until 2014, Dr. Mishkin’s registered home address in Moscow was the same as the G.R.U.’s headquarters.
Bellingcat said it would reveal a fuller report about Dr. Mishkin on Tuesday, when it is scheduled to present its findings to the House of Commons together with a British member of Parliament. The British authorities have so far been unwilling to confirm the suspects’ true identities.
Seven months after the poisonings occurred, they remain a point of bitter contention between Russia and the West. After the attack, new sanctions were imposed on Russia and about 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from Western nations.
Mr. Skripal and his daughter were found slumped on a park bench in Salisbury on March 4, a day after Yulia Skripal had arrived from Moscow to tell her father she planned to marry.
Mr. Skripal, a former military intelligence colonel who was imprisoned for selling secrets to Britain’s foreign intelligence service and then released to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, has not been heard from publicly since that day. Yulia has since issued a written statement and appeared once on camera, saying she hoped to one day return to Russia.
A police officer who responded to the poisoning was also sickened by the nerve agent, Novichok, and survived. And months later, two other British citizens were exposed when they picked up a perfume bottle British authorities say the two assassins had used to transport the nerve agent. One of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.
Source : Nytimes