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Skripal Poisoning Suspect’s Passport Data Shows Link to Security Services

September 14, 2018

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

Read The Insider Russian report on this same topic here.

An ongoing Bellingcat investigation conducted jointly with The Insider Russia has confirmed through uncovered passport data that the two Russian nationals identified by UK authorities as prime suspects in the Novichok poisonings on British soil are linked to Russian security services. This finding directly contradicts claims by the Russian president on 12 September 2018, and by the two men in an interview broadcast on RT one day later, that they are civilians who traveled to Salisbury for a tourist getaway.

Original Russian documents reviewed by Bellingcat and The Insider confirm definitively that the two men were registered in the central Russian resident database under the names Alexander Yevgenievich Petrov and Ruslan Timurovich Boshirov, respectively, and were issued internal passports under these names in 2009. However, no records exist for these two personas prior to 2009. This suggests the two names were likely cover identities for operatives of one of the Russian security services. Crucially, at least one man’s passport files contain various “top-secret” markings, which, according to at least two sources consulted by Bellingcat, are typically reserved for members of secret services or top state operatives.

These findings, along with peculiarities in the two men’s bookings of their flight to London, make Russia’s official statements that Petrov and Boshirov are civilian tourists implausible, and corroborate UK authorities’ claims that they are in fact officers of a Russian security service.

Last-minute travel plans

Aeroflot’s passenger manifest, reviewed by Bellingcat and The Insider, discredits Petrov and Boshirov’s claims, made in the RT interview, that they had been planning their visit to Salisbury for a long time. The manifest records the times of booking, check-in, and boarding of each passenger. In the case of the two suspects, they made their initial booking – and checked in online – at 20:00 GMT (22:00 Moscow time) on 1 March 2018, the night before their short trip to London and Salisbury.

(Click the manifest below to view it in full resolution)

The two suspects flew back to Moscow on 4 March 2018, having taken two trips to Salisbury both on March 3rd and March 4th, the day on which the Skripals were poisoned.

An Extraordinary Passport File

Bellingcat and The Insider have reviewed original records from the central Russian passport and residential registration database and have identified the passport files belonging to the two suspects.

The person using the name Alexander Petrov does in fact have a passport file, under the name Alexander Yevgenievich Petrov, born on 13 July 1979 in Kotlas, a small town in northern Russia. The birth date coincides with that of the Alexander Petrov who flew on Aeroflot flight SU2588 on 2 March 2018, as seen in the passenger manifest reviewed by Bellingcat.

This person’s domestic passport photo matches the photos released by the UK authorities and the face of the person calling himself Alexander Petrov in the RT interview.

Mr. Petrov’s passport file contains peculiarities that are not found in any other passport file reviewed by Bellingcat and The Insider in this and prior investigations.

Born in 2009?

First, this person’s file lacks any history of address registrations or previous identification documents issued prior to 2009. A standard passport file – such as the files of the other 3 Russian citizens bearing the name Alexander Petrov and born on 13 July 1979, all of which were reviewed by Bellingcat and the Insider before identifying the person of interest – contain a history of previous, expired ID documents (called domestic passports), international passports issued to the person (both expired and current), as well as previous address registrations. The first – and only – Russian ID document listed for Mr. Petrov under his file is an internal passport (mandatory for Russian citizens over the age of 14) issued on 26 November 2009, and valid until today. The passport file contains a field called “reason for issue of document”, which typically lists the previous (expired) ID document that the current one substitutes. In Mr. Petrov’s case, the reason for issuance of the new passport is listed simply as “Unsuitable for usage”, a marking typically used when a previous passport has been damaged or found to contain invalid data. A hand-written note in Petrov’s file makes a reference to a pre-existing national passport issued in St. Petersburg in 1999. However, no record of such a passport number exists in the central passport database.

“Do not provide any information”

Alexander Petrov’s passport dossier is marked with a stamp containing the instruction “Do not provide any information”.  This stamp does not exist in standard civilian passport files. A source working in the Russian police force who regularly works with the central database confirmed to Bellingcat and The Insider that they have never seen such a stamp on any passport form in their career.  That source surmised that this marking reserved for operatives of the state under deep cover.

Adding additional credence to the hypothesis that Alexander Petrov’s persona is a cover identity comes from another page in his passport file, which is reserved for input of biographical data. In Mr. Petrov’s case, this page is left blank, and in addition to the same stamp “Do not provide information”, a hand-written note is added with the text “There is a letter. S.S.”. Per the same source interviewed for this story, S.S. is a common abbreviation for “sovershenno sekretno”, Russian for “top secret”.

Another clue pointing to the non-civilian status of Mr. Petrov is the absence from his passport file of any information about his international passport, which he used to travel to the United Kingdom. The passport number is listed in the Aeroflot passenger manifest reviewed by Bellingcat. However, the passport file shows no international passport belonging to Alexander Petrov, in contrast with regular practice – under which the file contains a list of all government-issued ID documents, both national and international passports, expired and currently valid.

(Click the passport data below to view it in full resolution)

The Russian media outlet Fontanka has previously published information on Boshirov and Petrov’s passport files, indicating that they were separated by only 3 digits (-1294 and -1297), meaning that they were issued at nearly the same time. Bellingcat and The Insider also reviewed passport data for the other two individuals to whom those two passports were issued, with the the passport numbers ending in -1295 and -1296. These two individuals also had peculiar passport dossiers, with incomplete or time-capped data, similar to Alexander Petrov’s passport file. Additionally, Fontanka noted that Petrov and Boshirov bought two separate return flights back to Moscow on March 4. Additional information on these findings, along with other discoveries related to Boshirov and Petrov, will be published on Bellingcat’s site next week.

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419 Comments

  1. constantia et zelo

    When considering that neither the time frame nor the route of their Salisbury day trip can be matched to the time frame of the Skripal poisoning, it is reasonable to ponder if Petrov and Bashirov are involved with people in London that set them up? Were the two lured to pay a visit UK by someone who knew about the details of their personal records in the Russian domestic passport registry? Were they lured or even hired by someone to pay the visit to Salisbury and pose for the CCTV cameras?

    Regardless of whether Petrov and Bashirov were involved in the poisoning or not, it is anyway a fact that their domestic passport applications are available for the entire world to see here on Bellingcat webpage. This article also indicates that it has been fairly easy to access to the Russian Domestic Passport register, riffle and retrieve the data records dating back to over 10 years and to spot the potential GRU personnel or cover identities from the database. Such an obvious lack in access controls in a major population database poses a grave risk for all Russian citizens in being targeted by identity theft and social engineering schemes.
    I do not know if Russians fully understand this but in the western countries and Scandinavia from where I’m writing this, it is illegal to let unauthorized entities whether foreign or domestic to access, collect and share population records or passport application records. It is also not acceptable to maintain the references to classified profession or assignment in the same database with regular passport applications.
    In fact, it very much seems to me that the entire domestic passport application register of Russian Federation has been accessed by unwarranted users and leaked to the foreign entities, long before the Skripal case.
    Maybe it is too late to call fot damage control now, but I still suggest Russia should audit their population registries IMMEDIATELY and install ACCESS CONTROL with logs!

    Reply
    • FreedomVoice

      >Can we ask to see evidence of criminal cases in Russia?

      Yes, according to Russian law you can see all evidences, of course

      Reply
        • Brad

          I don’t want to go into comments about Russian judgments.

          We cannot see R evidence. And that’s fine.

          Reply
          • FreedomVoice

            I’m also not going to discuss it. In Russia in absoultely 100% of criminal cases you have access to all evidences. Period.

  2. Orbanistano

    Don’t have time to argue with the Pootey trolls here who babble on just like #Cult45 Devotees, following There is no truth logic 😶. To understand Pootey’s M.O. one has to think outside the box, conventional logic does not apply. Most security services like Mossad, CIA, GRU, MI6 plan months/weeks ahead, invisible recon teams do the ground work. When a plan is set in play, there are invisible back up individuals/teams that won’t show up on CCTV cams, no entry or exit from Russia to the UK. Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are GRU agents but they went to great lengths to become as obvious as possible, leaving a trail meant to be found. Flying direct flights on Aeroflot to and from Russia. Instead of taking a train straight to City Scape Hotel on Bow Street that takes around 1hr 15 mins, they travelled to Victoria Station, then on to Waterloo Station, after that their final trip to their hotel. 4 hours making sure they showed up on CCTV. They could have travelled from Gatwick to Salisbury and stayed there, instead far from the airports, the train stations and the Center of London. Bow Street, famous for London’s first Police force, the Bow Street Runners. They made sure a very small trace of Novichok was left in the hotel to find. I’m guessing that these 2 were the patsies that MI5 and the security services were meant to find the trail and blame. Pootey is an accomplished master of deception, smoke and mirrors guy. Don’t apply “Why would” logic, It’s all about if he can, he will. The Novichok in the fake perfume bottle was left in a charity shop bin in Amesbury, months later which strongly suggest the work of a back-up GRU team. The trigger was Yulia Skirpal flying into the UK, 2 targets for the price of one. Very clever theatre by a sociopathic dwarf, a guy blew up blocks of flats in 1999, create culprits, just to appear as a saviour in Chechnya. Even the RT interview with these ‘secret gay Russian tourists’ is filmed in different rooms. I know Salisbury and the cathedral is only a 10 minute walk from the station, you can’t loose your way as the cathedral spire is visible for miles. There was no snow on the pavements, it had melted away leaving wet pavements and sludge. They both had winter shoes on and the buses to Stonehenge were running as normal. Do real tourists really travel so far to somewhere and spend under 45 minutes on the place they chose to see?

    Reply
    • FreedomVoice

      >The evidence that the CPS has is tested in court.

      What exactly evidence was tested? Can you list all evidences and provide links?

      Reply

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