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Anatoliy Chepiga Is a Hero of Russia: The Writing Is on the Wall

October 2, 2018

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

After Bellingcat disclosed the identity of one of the two Skripal poisoning suspects as Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated colonel working for Russia’s military intelligence, Russian authorities responded with a string of vehement denials.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially called Bellingcat’s report “nonsense” and claimed it’s part of a disinformation campaign steered by Western governments. As of 1 October 2018, Maria Zakharova continued to insist on her Facebook page that Boshirov and Chepiga are different people. Following an initial acknowledgement that the Kremlin may not have been fully informed on the matter, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated to the press that “there is no data that the Hero of the Russian Federation has been awarded to [anyone named Anatoliy Chepiga.]”

Peskov also played down reporters asserting startling facial similarities between “Boshirov” and Chepiga, as shown in Bellingcat’s report, saying that the similarities are in fact trivial and likely coincidental.

However, the Kremlin’s denials rang exceedingly hollow against mounting additional evidence corroborating Bellingcat’s report  that was being unearthed by media organizations and open-source investigators alike.

At least five different media outlets — two Russian and three based in Europe — succeeded in tracking down people who knew Anatoliy Chepiga before or during his military studies. Overwhelmingly, these sources confirmed that the person who was interviewed on RT was Chepiga, and, furthermore, that Chepiga had been awarded the highest state award.

At the same time, media outlets sought additional ways to obtain objective, open-source evidence that Chepiga is indeed “Boshirov,” and the recipient of the Hero of the Russian Federation award. This search for evidence ran against a parallel process of destruction of open-source evidence: several articles that previously mentioned Chepiga in Russian publications were deleted shortly after Belingcat’s report was published.

One of the most promising open-source leads was proposed by reporters from Prague-based Radio Svoboda, who trawled through hundreds of photo and video galleries of visitors to, or students at, the Far-Eastern Military Academy (abbreviated as DVOKU in Russian), to find a high-quality photograph of the school’s Wall of Heroes. From various photographs it could be seen that the wall is decorated with portraits of alumni who have received the Hero of the Russian Federation award. Many photographs discovered by Radio Svoboda showed a portrait at the far end of the wall that resembled Chepiga. This extra portrait appeared at some point between 29 July 2014 – the last time the wall is pictured without Chepiga – and 18 March 2016, when a photo gallery shows the extra portrait.

Last publicly available photo of the Wall of Heroes at DVOKU without Chepiga’s portrait, from a closed OK group, photo dated July 2014

Photograph posted on OK on 18 March 2017, showing Anatoliy Chepiga added in the last full column next to the Gold Star.

However, no photograph found until today showed the last column of photos in sufficiently high resolution to be able to identify the face of the colonel.

Today, Bellingcat obtained a photograph, posted on the Russian social network Odnoklassniki (OK) by a visitor to the school in June 2017, which displays the face and name of Col. Chepiga with sufficient quality to make identification possible:

Wall of Fame at DVOKU: Portraits of all school alumni awarded Hero of Russia. Anatoliy Chepiga is in the middle row in the penultimate column, with Alexander Popov (who also received the award in 2014) in the last column

 

A comparison of the portrait of Colonel Anatoly Chepiga with a screenshot of “Ruslan Boshirov” as shown on RT

This new photo, seen against the backdrop of a mountain of additional evidence, will present a fresh challenge to Russian authorities who can no longer credibly deny — or even equivocate — that it was Colonel Chepiga who, in his own words, travelled to and back from Salisbury, and that he was furthermore the recipient of the Hero of the Russian Federation award, traditionally presented by the Russian president himself.

The Bellingcat team would like to express our gratitude to everyone who provided tips and leads for this investigation. We encourage our readers to continue sending confidential tips at contact@bellingcat.com

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120 Comments

  1. Amalgamation

    Russia is a criminal society ruled by ‘blatnoi’ people. The fact is now 100% obvious to all the people in the world. The question is: how to deal with it?
    How to deal with a huge state having a ‘blatnoi’ as a president, and the people of that country accepting the fact and standing behind him.

    Reply
  2. Grubbie

    “I think that it will soon pass,the sooner the better ” Vlad. The price of appeasement.

    Reply
  3. mmmmmmm

    Come on Russia…if you are so adamant that Boshirov and Chepiga are different people…get them both in an interview together side by side? Its easy! Then again, the only reason you wouldn’t is because its impossible, they are the same person. Well done Bellingcat and The Insider btw!

    Reply
    • beachdrifter

      Interesting. I let Craig Murray know why he’s wrong about this, and he deleted my post within minutes. The same happened with others that agreed. It’s the same as at Russia Today!

      So much for “Craig Murray”. I had hoped he had more sense than that.

      Reply
      • beachdrifter

        Craig deleted all of my posts. I guess he hates nothing more than facts, and the truth.

        Reply
        • Russian

          A quick look at his bio tells you all one needs to know about this fellow – he’s falls square in the camp that will ignore and actively deny any Russian wrongdoing because he sees Russia as the counterweight to a much hated West.

          Reply
  4. Reg

    “…that it was Colonel Chepiga who, in his own words, travelled to and back from Salisbury…”. Seems like a deliberately unclear pronoun here. In *Boshirov’s* words, surely?

    Reply
  5. Grubbie

    Not really sure it makes any difference, but does the red border signify that the recipient is still alive?
    “There’s no data”is not the same as “It’s not true “.This implies that they are trying to cover the possibility of something being found out. I’m sure Col Chepiga is pleased to discover that he’s received a pretend medal!
    Thinking about the timing of the poisoning, it now seems clear that there must have been other people involved in surveillance and look outs,cars ,vans ,bicycles,etc tailing the Skripals and parked near the house.There are an amazing amount of ANPR and ordinary cameras on the UK road network

    Reply
  6. Yeah, Right

    A couple of things that seem obvious to me:
    a) Why is that photo in amongst the Hero of the Soviet Union recipient, and not down on the bottom row next to Popov?
    b) Why does that photo have a thicker border and a wider caption-area when all the others were obviously created by the same template?
    c) If Chepiga was deemed worthy of a picture on that wall then why wasn’t he put there in 2014 when Popov (who was awarded at the same time) was put there?
    d) Why is that one photo laminated with a glossy finish, when all the other photos were laminated with a matt finish?
    e) Why isn’t he wearing a uniform, when all the other photos show the recipient in uniform?

    Reply
    • Grubbie

      Reflections are the same on the photo top left of Boshirov,it’s just the position of the lights. This presentation was clearly produced on an office photocopier,not a quality effort , you are going to have to do better than that.

      Reply
      • Yeah, Right

        Grubbie, I made no mention of the reflections at all.
        None. Zip. Zero.

        So nice straw man argument of yours.
        Do you argue with yourself often?

        Reply

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