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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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456 Comments

  1. 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 cellmate,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
  2. Standard Deviation

    The passport number series is revealing, surely the organisation who created the passports can’t be using a reserved list of consecutive numbers and not randomised ones? That would be really stupid.

    Reply
  3. Joachim

    Some mistakes. In the section “Last-minute travel plans”

    a) 20:00 GMT equals 23:00 Moskow local time (all over the year)

    b) The first time (20:00 March 1st) shows the online checkin time, not the time the tickets were booked

    c) The times can not be in GMT, they are in moscow time (or in the local time of the place where timestamp was taken). In case they are in GMT, there is the problem, that in that case both must have been at 14:08 still in moscow. How can they arrive around 15:00 in London then?

    d) Additional to the ticket, they must also apply for a visa. Was it checked when they did do that?

    e) The second last time (13:50) seems to be the landing time in london (and in london time). At least google translate translates “Posadka” with “Landing”. It fit’s very well an approx 3.5h flight. 12:00 Moscow time (equals 09:00 London time) last registration in Moscow (maybe at the gate), 13:50 (London time) landing in London.

    f) If you plan a travel longer time, it must not mean that you book directly the tickets. Even if you book short term, you can plan a travel to a destination long term. Maybe they planned long time to go there, then that day “last minute tickets” were cheap, they took free time, and went there. Anyway, we don’t know when they booked the tickets – at least that manifest does not show it.

    Reply
    • Concerned Citizen

      It takes between one and three weeks to process a tourist visa for the UK according to this source:

      migrationexpert.co.uk/frequently_asked_visa_questions/uk_tourist_visitor_visa_information/

      So how can Bellingcat’s claim of last minute travel plans make any sense?

      Reply
    • Brad

      There is no dispute about the travel times.

      Apart from the Gatwick photos. Which are of separate corridors.

      Reply
      • Concerned Citizen

        You don’t seem to have read the Bellingcat article.

        Bellingcat is claiming that they booked the trip at the last minute in a big hurry and did not plan it at all.

        This obviously is a false claim because they needed visas which take between one and three weeks to process.

        See?

        Reply
        • Brad

          @Concerned…

          Belling. are merely repeating what the two accused said in the RT TV interview. THEY said it was a last minute decision to take this ‘tourist’ trip, and yes, that’s inconsistent with getting a visa which takes at least 2 weeks.

          They make many statements that show they are lying. Like the corridors at Gatwick too.

          Reply
          • Concerned Citizen

            No, Bellingcat say this:

            “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.”

            You really need to actually read the Bellingcat article.

          • Brad

            Why have they not travelled out of Russia for 6 months when they were only accused last week?

            They also said that they travel as part of their work in the RT interview.

            Why were they grounded?

            A prosecution lawyer would tear the apart in minutes.

        • Brad

          I’m checking what they said in the RT interview about when they decided, but it’s not really a big deal, is it?

          Reply
        • Michael Hammerschlag

          They said they go to England + Europe often so have a 1-5 year multi-entry visa, not a separate new one.

          Reply
          • Lucky13

            You guys do realise that ‘Concerned Citizen’ is just a Russian troll right?

    • Brad

      They mean local time not GMT.

      Common, but bad mistake as people tend to type GMT as it easlier than to type local time. Most think they are the same for London. They aren’t.

      Reply
    • Brad

      The fact that they booked two return flights each (at at least £250 per ticket) is highly significant.

      They were clearly very nervous about getting back to Russia.

      I have never ever booked double returns and I know of no one who has ever done that even EasyJet.

      Reply
        • Brad

          @Concerned

          The article last sentence. In this article.

          “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”.

          Reply
          • Concerned Citizen

            I see, yes.

            What will be presented as allegedly booking information though?

            In this article Bellingcat is trying to claim what is clearly checkin information to be booking information.

  4. fuckyourcensorship

    Intriguing that putins swine can write what they want here and I get repeatedly censored for calling out these swine. WHY YOU not publishing my comments???
    Will this be published??? Laughable policy you fucking censoring admins as long as you give these kremlin swine a stage it is good I suppose. Wish I can get my donation back. Fuck you bellingcat!

    Reply
    • AlxLrz

      Don’t forget to take your medicine tonight or stop doing drugs then you probably see everything in a different way.

      Reply
    • Brad

      Other sources too have said about the double return tickets.

      Why did they sleep in London and keep Salisbury ‘off the record’?

      The London room was cover to make it appear they never were in Salisbury, before they oddly admitted it was them in the RT interview.

      The interview was a massive risk for them to take,

      Reply
      • Concerned Citizen

        Sure, sources say it, but so far we’ve seen no booking information at all.

        And if Bellingcat is trying to pass off check in information as booking information, which in this article they are, that would indicate that Bellingcat don’t have any booking information.

        We’ll see, in next week’s episode of ‘Making up Bollocks’.

        Reply
        • Brad

          @concerned

          It’s not for the public to check evidence.

          It’s for a uk court. And in a case like this some evidence is covered as it would be in Russia.

          Aeroflot tickets are no big deal.

          Evidence stacks up. Full proof (as such) not required in U.K. criminal court.

          Proof beyond reasonable doubt.

          CPS have a case. We don’t know all the evidence, maybe never will.

          Likely not all required to convict.

          Reply
          • Concerned Citizen

            There’s no evidence at all so far.

            And just like MH17, the hole where evidence should be is being filled with bellingbollocks.

          • Brad

            A few bits

            OPCW confirmed a Novichok

            Novichok traces in room where they stayed

            They were in Salisbury day of attempt and have made many lies to cover their tracks

            They have stayed in Russia since the attack, even though they have an international business and are frequent travellers

  5. apeguia

    Sounds like a lot of assumptions around a few not-so-impressive details found in bureaucratic files (“It says SS! Surely means Secret Service!”). And that is assuming Bellingcat even has access to internal documents of the Russian government. Really?? Typical Bellingcat speculation presented as fact.

    Reply
    • Concerned Citizen

      Bellingcat is being fed this material by the shadowy ‘Russian’ ‘journalist’ groups Insider Russia and Fontanka.

      Bellingcat itself isnt really doing any of this, they are just the shop front.

      Reply
      • Grubbie

        Who really cares where it comes from,still no sign of a back story for your mates.Its become obvious to me that most of the Putinbots here are sitting in the same room or at least in contact with each other from your answers.

        Reply
          • Grubbie

            Don’t worry mate, you’re not the only one who can find no trace of these supposedly successful businessmen.They must be financing their travel and hookers somehow.

      • Black Star

        So, comrade “Concerned Citizen”, you choose to believe what ever the Kremlin tells you but do not approve of any other source. Can you tell us why we should believe you, then, since you are clearly choosing your claims not by their merits, but by their source?

        Reply
        • Francois Labelle

          Maybe “Concerned Citizen” should just come out of the closet and rename himself “Concerned Troll” The fact the UK found Novichok at the Hotel room where the 2 dumb and dumber Russian state GRU professional killers fucked prostitutes all night should have been enough for the average individual with average intelligence…but since we are dealing with nationalistic Russian tribe mostly millions of Russian ex-Pat who fled the evil motherland for a better life, we are stuck on a brick wall of denials and stupid explanations ad nausean…just like MH17, Crimean armed invasion, Eastern Ukraine armed Russian invasion, Georgia armed Russian invasion, the FSB paid Russian dumb and dumber state FSB who assisted with dopping of Russian Olympic athletes, the downing and war crimes perpetrated by dumb and dumber Russian trained Army technicians and Russian government who are responsible for the death of 300 innocent civilians, the war crimes perpetrated on a grand scale by the Russian air Forces/ Russian Army over cities with millions of innocent Syrians, most of whom had nothing to do with terrorist groups by were opposed to psychopath WAR CRIMINAL chemical Assad…denials of the poisonning of Ukraine’s president, poisonning to death with Polonium 210 of Russian FSB defectors over FSB and the Putin government being implicated with operations with the Russian mafia, poisonning of the Skripals over information they provided to the Spanish police over Russian mafia activities and the Russian government, denials of Russia’s invilvement into at least 20 EU countries elections by using Russian paid troll factory propaganda and fake news to sway elections, such as the buffoon Trump in the WH…Russia is a terrorist state, and has been for the last 100 years!!

          Reply
  6. AlxLrz

    I don’t think that the GRU is so stupid that they would send 2 agents that leaves traces everywhere so that MSM and british police can trace it directly back to Putin. But perhaps some Ukranian agents saw an oppertunity here and struck the father and daughter so the russians would be blamed. Just a theory but much more likely than the GRU story. We will never know the truth anyway.

    Reply
    • Ruslan

      To the contrary, I think that is exactly the level of stupidity rampant in the GRU nowadays and we all know the truth suka, blyad.

      btw oppertunity is written with an o you russian basement dweller.

      Reply
      • alxlrz

        Wrong again. I live in Oslo, Norway and most people in Norway are very happy that Russia, which we share border with, has Putin as leader, he has stabilized the country and caused no trouble for us. That is more than we can say about your idol, Trump.

        Reply
          • AlxLrz

            He He thanx for that. It says something like “Your dad did nasty things to you when you were a kid” ans now you are taking it out on everybody that do no agree with your szisofrenic ideas. Try do confront your dad instead – or did you enjoy it? Anyway i feel sorry for you.

          • Ruslan

            No what I said is – ‘How are you you fucking shithead with sub zero intelligence.’ Complemented by: ‘Burn in hell asshole.’
            You are as much Norwegian as Russia is innocent govnyuk!

        • Francois Labelle

          Yep! Everyone should love to be living next to a mafia terrorist state next door! Things would be very stable LOL! Because you’re part of the dumb and dumber Russian troll Norwegian team? Only ex-pat Russians who left Russia during the cold war and their children seeking a better life are in love with Rasputin! Russians in the Baltics, Ukraine, all over the world is like being affected by malignant cancer!!
          https://www.dw.com/en/inside-europe-icy-norway-russia-relations/av-37196368

          Reply
          • Brad

            Døn’t think Finland, Sweden, and the Baltics share your view, but you’re entitled to it.

      • TheWormTurned

        Russia intelligence and operations are competent. But, every organization gets sloppy.

        But this level of affairs amateurism shows either lax protocol or hubris.

        Reply
        • alxlrz

          I agree with you on the point that any organization can get sloppy and do mistakes, but if GRU is behind it then this must have been a VERY special assignement because this is not a day to day operation and I don’t think they would mess it up this way. But sadly we will never know for sure what happened.

          Reply
          • TheWormTurned

            One explanation I heard, that makes sense, is that this was an operation born from rivalry within Russia’s intelligence community. It’s very possible that there are factions not entirely in complete control of the Kremlin. This would explain some of the less-than professional results. And possibly the genuine “I didn’t do it” from Putin.

            Not certain… But sounds plausible.

    • Brad

      Why not?

      Staying in London was their cover. They needed to be seen in London. They stayed in London -alibi.

      No cctv of them in London? So what?

      They gave up on this when they saw the quality of the cctv images Salisbury.

      They should have just shut up.

      Reply
  7. Brad

    “The fact is that neither Petrov nor Boshirov have nothing to do with Putin, and the Kremlin of course,” Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying.

    Reuters today.

    Presume the double negative is a mistranslation?????

    Can’t find the Russian version.

    Reply
    • Brad

      Even odder when you consider that Peskov has an excellent command of English.

      Deliberate?

      English speaking Russians and students are made well aware as in Russian there is no double neg.

      Reply
  8. Grubbie

    Amazingly, despite running a sports nutrition business successful enough to pay for masses of foreign travel, still no trace!
    I wonder what persuaded Putin to produce them when they have no back story?Apparently they are not gay,and are extremely reckless about their cover as well as other people’s lives.They can’t even disappear without leaving some trace now.

    Reply
    • Brad

      Truth is, and I don’t like to say this, as a strong Russophile, but Russia is pretty damn screwed over this.

      Very scary, but Russia won’t back down and will just dig deeper.

      Allowing them to give the interview was very dangerous indeed and if anything I admire Siminyan for pushing quite hard in the circumstances.

      Dreadful mistake.

      Reminds me of Brexit in some ways.

      Reply

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