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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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455 Comments

  1. Jane

    What baffles me about this sordid affair is why Putin, in the crucial weeks just before the Russian election, would sanction such a blatantly cack- handed attempt to assassinate a former spy and his daughter in a small city.
    Putin must have known that he would win the election, as he duly did, and that furthermore, Russia’s hosting of the football World Cup, would not be helped by officially directed dirty deeds.
    I’ve never doubted that Russians were responsible, but I’ve always suspected that it was a privately organised settling of old scores by rogue elements.
    Possibly this is tin-hat thinking, but it is obvious that Putin, a wealthy, powerful ,nationalist autocrat is now a bogey man of choice for the west.
    The fact that these 2 thugs were able to enter and then leave the UK so easily also reflects badly on our border controls.
    Will the full facts ever be known?

    Reply
    • rockhard

      Putin thought nobody would even notice. Just another Russian in Exile who choked on something strange to death. That it blew up so horribly in their faces must be a new reality for the tzar. Something they are less trained in which explains all the phony nonsense they come up with over time.
      Like vlad coming up with this edgy comment about the guys sitting next to buddy jinping. What an embarrassment it was. Not even his Journalist knowing how to make this stunt believable. Loonies

      Reply
      • AlexT

        I that case why use this very peculiar chemical agent (when they have many other at hand) and why send those two bozos ? I can’t see how this adds up.

        Reply
  2. Alex

    Nice evidence that these travelers are no tourists.

    Where the evidence that exactly these two guys sprayed something somewhere.

    If the evidence is about “who they are” and not “what they did” – such investigation has 0 value.

    Each country has secret services and agents and so what?

    UK prepared for visit of Russians and manipulates with facts to create a possibility “that Russians killed somebody in UK”.

    A possibility, not evidence.

    Reply
    • Grubbie

      How do courts operate in Russia?Ofcouse who they are is evidence.Maybe not conclusive evidence by itself, but there’s plenty more to convict them of murder.
      It’s interesting to see that even the Putinbots have now given up with tourists explanation.

      Reply
      • bobby

        indeed their game seems to shift to the next obfuscation all the way to the bitter end.

        but stepping out of line for a putin bot and they know what awaits them – novichok – so it goes on to the bitter end

        Reply
  3. Istvan

    Based on the dw coverage I am pretty sure they are not who they claim they are. But the information shared by Bellingcat is neither osint not social media based. The information can only come from within Russian police or deeper. There are two issues with this. 1) it can’t be verified. We have to trust Bellingcat 2) Bellingcat has to trust it’s source that it can’t verify. So frankly this could be anything including Russian provocation.

    Reply
    • Pavel 222

      Are you serious? These facts show, that Russians lie.
      Russian provocation against whom? Against Russians?

      Reply
      • John TRUDGIAN

        There are no facts here – these are assertions – this is a blog post. Facts are established in a court. Don’t you people have any idea how the justice system works?

        Reply
        • missdemeanor

          That’s WRONG: we don’t have to wait until court proceedings to determine FACTS in the real world. Your claim grossly misstates US law and denies reality in favor of meaningless mumbo jumbo.

          Reply
  4. Edco

    A thought: Saturday’s trip wasn’t a recce but the first attempt. The GRU were monitioring Yulia’s comms and probably knew that she was arriving at LHR around 3pm on the Saturday. They assumed that Sergei would pick her up and that an empty house would make a good target. But a neghbour of his collected Yulia, Sergei’s BMW was probably still outside the house, so Boshirov and Petrov had to return on the Sunday and part-botched the job?

    Reply
  5. Concerned Citizen

    So the phone number 195-79-66 as discussed by Novaya Gazeta, Meduza etc. is definitely that of a mattress retailer, matrackusis.

    In 2016 it had a 495 prefix, now after a phone system expansion, in 2018 it has a 499 prefix.

    Any explanation?

    Reply
    • Jack

      You can’t make this stuff up. Bellingcat is touted as meticulous in his search for facts and the GRU, now FSB as bumbling fools. Their taking a right lend of him now. This is how the whole $@&! Started, with Steee’s sources creating dossiers from statements by Russian nobodies. Pay enough money and I’ll tell you anything are not reliable sources. This is why May is ruining herself, scrambling to save Britain from being shunned by the US for betting on the wrong candidate. Wait till Trump finds out, her party was backing the democrats hand in hand and know she is humiliating herself and the intelligence of the British people.

      Reply
  6. John TRUDGIAN

    Why is every new episode riddled with such flimsy evidence and wild leaps of narrative licence? I agree the behaviour of the two Russians seems fishy. But that is merely par for the course in this soap opera. Skripal is fishy to start with. Steele, Orbis and Millar are also fishy. The Govt D notice – very fishy. “Weapons Grade” Novichok that only kills 1 out of 5 – complete nonsense. The original diagnosis from Salisbury Hospital was fentanyl – which was scrubbed 6 weeks later – Why? Fishy! The only solution is an open criminal trial, with proper rules of evidence and a jury. The two Russians might appear by video link if they want to clear their names. But I doubt the British government will agree to that. They might have to much explaining to do!

    Reply
    • Concerned Citizen

      Just called 07-499-195-79-66 and it’s ringing but there’s no answer.

      Perhaps the GRU is closed on Sundays?

      Reply
    • Uncle Bob

      There’s nothing fishy about the Novichok diagnosis, I know the chap who runs the team that did it at Porton, who wrote the briefing for May – when he spoke to her he was pleased to note that she had actually read it – and his work was confirmed by other international agencies. He’s a pretty earnest chap and he’s been decontaminating squaddies for the last 20 yeers. Why would they be burying police cars and tearing Skripal’s house apart otherwise? Sounds like an expensive waste of time if it is a con.

      Reply
  7. Grubbie

    There’s no evidence. Come to the UK and defend yourselves in court. Boris Johnson has offered you the possibility of all of his wealth if you sue him.Bring it on!

    Reply
    • Brad

      Boris is worth £5m pre divorce.

      He’s not rich by Russian oligarch standards.

      Ps. There’s a multitude of evidence. Why did they go to Salisbury off the record?

      Evidence is not proof. True.

      Reply
  8. ITDiver

    OMG. few years ago bellingcat text was very hard to critic.
    But now, there are no sign of logic.
    If they were 007’s why there is no legend for whole their life? fake, but legend should be form the beggining to the end look like real! any spy in any country has such legend(at least for more than century!!), if not, it will be very helpfull to counter-spies forces.
    on other hand, are you defifnitelly sure that anybody who have access to goverment ID database can read top secret documents? How top secret document can be in database, which can be acceptable by many thousands of people with low grant level?
    the other point is “experienced police worker doesn’t face with stamp “do not provide any information”. There are only two spies in whole Russia? if Russian goverment mark only its spies with this mark, it look like foolish(because any with low level access can identify spies!”, but, experienced database user should saw such stamp time to time – not every day, but not once in life. Because there are definitelly more than two spies in Russia, and all of them should have more than one “fake passport”….

    So, I definitelly sure, they are not spies. It just a logic, nothing else. if their biography was ideal – in this case we can think “maybe”. If their biography fake, so even any police worker with access to database can identify them as spies – it is fake, not spy. as simple, as proof by contradiction.

    /Went drink vodka with my bear.

    Reply
    • Grubbie

      WTF are you talking about?Just show us the legend or their real history if you have nothing to hide. Its impossible to create a totally bullet proof legend because everyone has some sort of family. This is the key weakness that all you Putinbots will not address. Anyway,their history dosnt really matter, they still did it.

      Reply
  9. kraaiii

    The question that you have to ask yourself ”i am that gullible””

    The GRU placing stamps (look it’s us the GRU and he’s our agent) and telephone NR on documents.
    Taking direct flights to England.
    Walking in broad daylight!!! looking directly at CCTV cameras instead of renting a car or taking a cab.
    Using nerve agents on a famous Russian ex spy. A nerve agent with clear symptoms of poisoning and thus symptoms of foul play, the use of novichok is a 100% guarantee you get caught.

    If the info checks out the best i can make of it, that Petrov and Boshirov are two GRU courier to deliver something for skripal. And have now found themselves caught as compulsory scapegoat for another party assassination attempt.

    Reply
    • Concerned Citizen

      The British authorities obviously scoured their CCTV records for any Russians that had visited Salisbury.

      It’s a tourist destination what with the cathedral, Stonehenge and Old Sarum, so there were likely quite a few.

      These guys looked sort of like they might be agents, so they just started accusing them.

      It’s that simple really.

      Reply
      • JudgeDredd

        CorneredCitizen how much you paid per comment.
        Do your masters pay you extra for sunday work?
        Do you sit in basement or have window to look outside?

        Reply
      • JudgeDredd

        Hey cornered citizen how much do you get paid for a comment?
        Do your masters pay more on sunday?
        You work in basement or have window to look outside??

        Reply
      • Admin121

        If they came up with a better story, they may be believed. No one travels around Europe buying supplements – there’s numerous online stores which have a massive range of supplements, you can have them delivered.

        Tourist destination? The clock is just a few coroded gears, the spire is 123 meters high, these tourists must be really religious or architect students. Multiple visits around the time of the incident along with passports which are incriminating as hell.

        “…just started accusing them.” These two suspects are in really big trouble – I would hate to be facing the same evidence.

        Reply
    • Yury Gagarin

      is real shame what happened. I apologize for my country being stupid amateur.
      I hope next killing they will be smarter not use novichok any more, not taking direct flight and pay for cab…I know economic situation is tough right now with all the sanction and everybody need save money but it only make all worse. I am ashamed

      Reply
  10. Grubbie

    CALLING ALL PUTINBOTS,still no sign of a biography, legend or any background for these two innocent blokes.No mummy doing an interview with RT saying what a nice boy he was,no angry ex wife, former climate,nothing.
    PUT UP OR SHUT UP.
    Don’t worry, we are now living in the age of mass communication and open sorcery, they can’t hide for long.

    Reply

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