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Full report: Skripal Poisoning Suspect Dr. Alexander Mishkin, Hero of Russia

October 9, 2018

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Read The Insider Russian report on this same topic here.

In  a preceding report on the investigation into the two suspects in the Skripals poisoning case, Bellingcat and its reporting partner the Insider disclosed the identity of one of the two suspects. The person travelling under the alias of Ruslan Boshirov was identified as GRU’s Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, recipient of Russia’s highest state award.

Bellingcat can now report that it has conclusively identified the second suspect, who travelled to Salisbury under the alias Alexander Petrov. We already produced evidence that “Alexander Petrov” is not an authentic persona, but an undercover alias for an officer of a Russian security agency. In a later report, we established that “Petrov” was specifically working for Russia’s military intelligence, the GRU.

We have identified “Alexander Petrov” to be in fact Dr. Alexander Yevgeniyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU. Furthermore, multiple witnesses familiar with Alexander Mishkin and his family have confirmed to us that he, like Col. Chepiga, is a recipient of the Hero of Russia award, which is bestowed by a special decree by the Russian President.

While Alexander Mishkin’s true persona has an even smaller digital footprint than Anatoliy Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish many key facts from his background.

Who is Alexander Mishkin?

Alexander Mishkin was born on 13 July, 1979 in the village of Loyga, in the Archangelsk District in Northern European Russia. Loyga, inhabited by just over a thousand residents, is so remote that it has no road access to the rest of Russia, and for most of the year is only reachable via a narrow-gauge railroad. Alexander Mishkin lived in his home village until at least 1995, until he was sixteen. For a large part of his school years, Mishkin lived with his grandmother, Loyga’s only medical practitioner at the time.

Photograph from Loyga, a village without paved roads, isolated from the rest of Russia most of the year

At some point between 1995 and 1999, Alexander Mishkin moved to St. Petersburg. We could not establish what led to the initial relocation, although some people familiar with his family reported that he enrolled at a military academy. We have established with certainty however that no later than 2001 he was a student at the “S. Kirov” Military Medical Academy, which is popularly referred to in Russian as Voyenmed. Mishkin studied at the Academy’s 4th Faculty, which trains military doctors for Russia’s naval armed forces.  He specialised in undersea and hypobaric medicine. Mishkin graduated the Academy in 2006 or 2007 with a medical degree and rank of senior lieutenant, which is the default rank granted to all military doctors in Russia.

It is not certain at what point — before, during or after his military medical studies — Mishkin was recruited to work for the GRU. However, no earlier than 2007 and no later than 2010 he relocated to Moscow and received an undercover identity, including a second national ID and travel passport, under the alias Alexander Petrov.

Unlike the case of Anatoliy Chepiga, “Petrov”’s cover identity retained most of the biographical characteristics of the authentic Mishkin – such as the exact birth date, first and patronymic name, and first names of his parents. The family name was changed to Petrov, and the birthplace was moved to Kotlas, town approximately 100 km from his actual place of birth (reaching Kotlas from Loyga by car, ironically enough, takes 10 hours as it requires a 350-km detour). Under his cover identity, Mishkin was registered at a Moscow address occupied by a different individual who is likely unrelated to him and unaware of his existence. The real Mishkin, under his authentic identity, lived with his wife and two children at a different address in Moscow.

Incomplete border crossing data obtained by Bellingcat shows that in the period 2010-2013 Mishkin travelled — under his undercover persona of Petrov — multiple times to Ukraine, and often crossed by car into and back from the self-declared Transnistrian Republic where he stayed for short periods of time.  His last trip to Ukraine was in mid-December 2013. Mishkin’s travel itinerary from 2016 and on was reported previously by us.

Until early September 2014, Mishkin’s registered home address in Moscow was Khoroshevskoye Shosse 76B, the address of the headquarters of the GRU. Bellingcat has confirmed that until approximately the same time, August 2014, Col. Chepiga was also registered as “residing” at this address. This address registration did not mean that the two physically lived at the GRU headquarters but that their actual place of residence was kept confidential.

Hero of Russia award: For activities in Ukraine?

In the latter part of 2014, President Putin bestowed Alexander Mishkin with the Hero of the Russian Federation Award.  People closely familiar with Mishkin’s family reported to us that they believe Russia’s highest award was given for Mishkin’s activities “either in Crimea or in relation to [former Ukrainian president] Yanukovich”

In our previous reporting on Chepiga, we identified that until 2014 he resided at an apartment complex shared by dozens of GRU-linked officers and owned by the Ministry of Defense. While we found no indication of Mishkin’s actual residence while registered at GRU headquarters address, it can be assumed he also used a GRU-issued corporate apartment. In the autumn of 2014, at the time both Mishkin and Chepiga received their Hero of Russia Awards, both moved to upscale apartments valued at between €350,000 and €500,000 at the exchange rates that existed then. Bellingcat believes that these apartments were in-kind remuneration that accompanied the highest state award.

Alexander Mishkin current military rank is unknown. However, based on the known rank as of graduation from the Military Medical Academy (Russian military doctors graduate with a rank of senior lieutenant), and the elapsed time (15 years), it can be posited that as the time of the Skripals’ poisoning incident he was either a Lt. Colonel or a full Colonel.

Identification method

The starting point for our research was a passport photograph of “Alexander Petrov,”as well as security camera photos and video footage from this person’s interview on RT.  In addition, we had the passport dossier of the undercover persona “Petrov”, which contained an earlier photo and other, possibly irrelevant or fake, biographical data. In addition, UK media quoted a police source stating that the first name of the suspect was indeed believed to be “Alexander”, while the family name was believed to be different than “Petrov”.

Similar to the identification of Col. Chepiga, Bellingcat initially exhausted all reverse-image search attempts with no match. This implied that “Petrov”, like Col. Chepiga, has no social media or other photographic presence on the internet, or that such past presence, if any, has been cleansed thoroughly.

The second line of attack was to search through photo-albums or group photos and videos of graduates of the Far-Eastern Military School attended by Col. Chepiga. This approach also yielded no results. Similarly, no matches were identified in group photos of the Spetsnaz military unit to which Chepiga was assigned after graduation. Then Bellingcat searched through names of all people registered at Chepiga’s corporate-residence address. After exploring all possible name and age matches, we concluded none of the residents could be “Alexander Petrov.”

Change of search algorithm

Finally, we decided to apply a different approach to the search. While in the case of Chepiga, all personal details had been altered for his cover persona, this was not necessarily always the case.  Other GRU undercover officers we had investigated, such as Eduard Shishmakov, had retained their first name, birthdate and place of birth, and had only the last name changed, in Shishmakov’s case to “Shirokov.” The research team hypothesized that this may have been the case with “Petrov” too, given the tip that the first name had been retained unchanged.

Looking for clues as to the geographical focus for the search, we noted that in the “cover” passport file, there was a reference to a previous passport, issued in St. Petersburg in 1999.

The address in St. Petersburg mentioned in the covert passport of “Petrov” that refers to a passport issued in 1999

Searching through dozens of previously leaked databases, we did not find such passport issue number, leading the team to conclude the number was fake. However, the reference to St. Petersburg was a possible clue, under the “minimum change” hypothesis.

Alexander from St. Petersburg

Focusing on St. Petersburg, we searched through various leaked databases of residents, vehicle owners and telephone subscribers, by using the following search criteria: first name and patronymic = “Alexander Yevgeniyevich” (as in the cover identity),  and birth date = “13 July, 1979” (also as in the cover identity).

This search resulted in only one exact match in St. Petersburg databases from 2003 and 2006: Alexander Yevgeniyevich Mishkin, born on 13 July, 1979. This name with the same address, Akademika Lebedeva street 12, apartment 30, are mentioned in an open source database as well.

Alexander Yevgeniyevich Mishkin, born on 13 July 1979, from a 2003 St. Petersburg database

Bellingcat then used the telephone number (which is no longer in service) listed in the database as search criteria, to find other St. Petersburg residents that were linked to it. At least eight residents were registered to have used this same phone number, in the 2003 and 2006 databases. This finding suggested that these living quarters may have been a communal apartment (komunalnaya kvartira), or living space shared by multiple unrelated residents. Communal apartments were wide-spread in the USSR, but as of 2002 would have primarily been used by students. Indeed, more than half of the people registered to this phone number, including Mishkin, were between ages of 18 and 24.

A total number of eight people registered on the same address with the same telephone number as Alexander Mishkin

A review of the map of St. Petersburg placed the address directly across the part of the campus buildings of the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy, or Voyenmed.

Campus buildings of the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy across the address of Mishkin

Another clue from the cover passport that supports the hypothesis that Alexander Mishkin is the true identity of Alexander Petrov, is the aforementioned reference to a previous passport issued in 1999. The reference mentions “20 отделение милиции Выборгского района город Санкт-Петербурга,” translated as the 20th police department of the Vyborg district of St. Petersburg, located at Ulitsa Smolyachkova nr.5, just 1.6 kilometers from the address where Mishkin was registered.

Using the open-source online database of residents of St. Petersburg, Bellingcat identified more than 30 persons who had inhabited different apartments in the house at “Akademika Lebedeva 12.” A search for these people’s online presence showed that many of them list VMEDA as their alma mater, and many others work in spheres linked to the medical profession.  From the 8 persons registered to the same communal apartment as Mishkin, two were identified, via social media, as VMEDA graduates.

No presence for “Alexander Yevgeniyevich Mishkin” with the birth date of 13.07.1979 was found on Russian or foreign social media sites.

At this point in the investigation, Bellingcat hypothesized that the Alexander Yevgeniyevich Mishkin who lived across the street from the VMEDA in 2002 was a student at the military medical academy. Additionally, the team hypothesized that this might indeed by the real person behind the persona Alexander Petrov, who shared the same birthdate, name and patronymic.

Linking St. Petersburg to Moscow

On the assumption that the real person behind “Alexander Petrov” lives and works in Moscow (as suggested by the Moscow registration of the cover passport file), Bellingcat then searched for presence of a person with the name Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin in Moscow. The first open-source result was from a Moscow online phone database.

The telephone number of Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin in Moscow

Using this phone number and name, we searched in various leaked Moscow databases and found a match in a car insurance database from 2013.

Mishkin’s telephone number in a 2013 car insurance database

However, at this point it was not unequivocal that this Moscow-based person having the same full name and driving a Volvo XC90 was the same person as the St. Petersburg namesake. To verify this, Bellingcat acquired the registration history of this vehicle from an official Russian database.  The car history showed that it had been imported, and initially registered in St. Petersburg in 2012, and on 11 September 2013 had been transferred to an individual residing in the Khoroshevsky District in Moscow.

The registration history of the Volvo XC90 shows the car was registered in 2013 to a person living in the Khoroshevsky District in Moscow

As the GRU headquarters is located at Khoroshevskoye Shosse 76B, in this same district, this finding increased the probability that Alexander Mishkin from St. Petersburg is indeed “Alexander Petrov.” However, the evidence was still inconclusive, primarily as there was no confirmation that “Khoroshevsky Region” Alexander Mishkin shares (a) same birth date as the St. Petersburg namesake and (b) if his address in Khoroshevsky Region is not a pure coincidence.

To eliminate these uncertainties, we obtained a more recent auto insurance database from 2014, available for purchase from a Russian website. A search for the registered owner of the Volvo XC90 eliminated any doubt that Alexander Mishkin is linked to the GRU, as the address listed for the owner was GRU’s headquarters, at Khoroshevskoye Shosse 76B.  Additionally, due the full overlap of birth date and name, we concluded that with high confidence that he is the same Alexander Mishkin who resided next to  Russia’s military academy in St. Petersburg in 2002.

Alexander Mishkin’s address in a 2014 car insurance database, mentioned as “Khoroshevskoye Shosse 76B,” the address of the GRU headquarters

At this point in the investigation, Bellingcat and its investigative partner, The Insider, shared the conviction that Alexander Mishkin was in fact the person behind the alias “Petrov,” as all evidence was internally consistent, and also consistent with data from the previous case study of Shishmakov/Shirokov. The team also had relatively high confidence that Alexander Mishkin had studied at, and possibly graduated, the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy, VMEDA, or Voyenmed.

Do not divulge

Via Russian social networks, Bellingcat mass-contacted hundreds of VMEDA graduates from the 2001-2007 class range. We did not inform the persons contacted about the context of the query, nor did we mention Petrov. Many of the contacted persons responded by saying they are not familiar with an Alexander Mishkin as having been in their class. Most others did not respond to our queries.

One person, who requested complete anonymity, confirmed to Bellingcat that Alexander Mishkin indeed graduated the academy, having been in a different class. They also said that they had recognized Mishkin as “Alexander Petrov” from the RT interview. This same person informed us that many of the graduates from Mishkin’s class and department had been contacted by Russian security services over the last few weeks, and instructed not to divulge Mishkin’s identity to anyone.

A photo worth a thousand words

Having established Petrov’s true identity in late September, we focused all efforts on obtaining a photograph of Alexander Mishkin. As reported by Russian media, following Bellingcat’s initial reports on the Skripal suspects, the Russian domestic security agency FSB clamped down on sources that they perceived might be leaking data from Russia’s passport dossier databases. As a result, requesting any source to provide the investigating team with access to Mishkin’s passport file was not an option, as it would place this source in danger.

Instead, we were able to obtain a copy of Alexander Mishkin’s scanned passport pages, from a source with access to a scanned copy of the passport. The source requested complete anonymity due to safety concerns, and thus Bellingcat cannot share the position or history the source has that has enabled them to have access to this document. However, we have validated the data visible in the passport in at least three other leaked databases that match the passport number, date of issue, name and issuing authority.  The photo on the passport scan does not appear in any other open sources, further minimizing the risk of а forged document. We have also confirmed the source’s profession and that his or her position (which is not linked to the government) provides access to this document.

A scan of Alexander Mihskin’s 2001 passport

The source also provided Bellingcat with a second document in the name of Alexander Mishkin containing a (different) photograph of an individual bearing a strong facial resemblance of “Petrov.”

Bellingcat requested a forensic facial similarity analysis between the passport photo from Mishkin’s passport (dated 2001) and “Petrov”’s international passport (dated 2006), from Prof. Ugail, professor of visual computing at the University of Bradford and an expert in simulated age progression. Prof. Ugail confirmed unequivocally that the two photographs belong to the same person, accounting for the 15-year difference between the two.

Mishkin’s passport photo of 2001 versus Petrov’s passport photo; various face recognition methods show a high percentage of probability of a match

On the road to Loyga, the village with no roads

For final validation of our amassed findings, Bellingcat’s Russian investigative partner, The Insider, sent a reporter to the village of Loyga.  The reporter was able to meet and talk to many residents, who all recognized “Alexander Petrov”, the person shown on photographs released by the British police and seen in the RT interview, as “our local boy” Alexander Mishkin. One person told our reporter that Alexander Mishkin had been her son’s play friend.

In addition, at least five different residents told our reporter that Alexander Mishkin, who they knew worked in Murmansk or in Moscow “as a military doctor”, had received the Hero of Russia award several years ago. One source close to Mishkin’s grandmother (who is now in her 90s, and as a former doctor is still revered in the village) told us that the reason for the award is top secret, but that the understanding in the village was that it was “for Crimea or [for former Ukrainian president Viktor] Yanukovych,” the implication being that the award had either something to do with the Crimean annexation or with helping Yanokovych flee Ukraine.

The same source told us that Alexander Mishkin’s grandmother possesses a photograph on which President Putin is shown bestowing the Gold Star medal (which goes with the award) to Alexander, and shaking his hand. The source said the grandmother treasures this photo and does not show it to everyone, and never lets anyone else hold it. Our reporter was not able to talk directly to Petrov’s grandmother or see the photograph.

A Doctor and a Hero

Bellingcat could not find any publicly accessible document confirming that Alexander Mishkin received the Hero of Russia award. However, this is not unusual, as only a part of the awards are made public, while recipients who earn the recognition through services that are subject to state secrecy are not announced. In the Col. Chepiga case, we were only able to discover his award due to public statements by officers of his military school, and the gold-emblazoned name on the “Gold Star” wall of a school-ground monument. No such public honors were identified in open sources for Dr. Mishkin.

However, at least one document discovered by Bellingcat corroborates the statements by Alexander Mishkin’s proud townspeople. In September 2014, at about the same time that Mishkin would have received his award, per the Loyga residents, Mishkin moved to a new apartment in а freshly build skyscraper in Moscow. The two-bedroom apartment, which was registered in the name of his wife and two daughters, had a tax value of approximately €350,000, significantly above the price range tenable for a Russian military officer. More tellingly, according to an extract from Russia’s central real estate registry, ownership of the apartment was obtained by the new owners based on a “Contract of Transfer.” A Contract a Transfer is not a standard form of real estate acquisition; a more standard reference would be a “Sale and Purchase Contract.”

At approximately the same time, Col. Anatoliy Chepiga also moved from an apartment in a corporate “dormitory” building to an upscale apartment not far from Mishkin’s. Chepiga’s apartment was larger and more expensive: at 100 sq. m, its tax value was reported at approx. half a million euro at the then exchange rate. This 12th floor apartment was also passed on to the four members of the Chepiga family on the basis of a “Contract of Transfer of Ownership”, although in this document also the term “Privatization” was added.

The most plausible explanation for these two contemporaneous “transfers”, none of which was associated with a mortgage or a traditional sale-purchase contract, is that they were granted to Chepiga and Mishkin by the Russian state as an in-kind bonus alongside the Hero of Russia award. This would be consistent with information reported to the BBC and other media by residents of Chepiga’s home village who spoke of a Moscow apartment being given to Anatoliy Chepiga as a present when he received the Hero of Russia Award.

Relevance of new findings

The findings of this investigation by Bellingcat add possibly material context to the mission of the two GRU officers to Salisbury. The inclusion of a trained military doctor on the team implies that the purpose of the mission has been different than information gathering or other routine espionage activities. Bellingcat contacted various sources with knowledge of practices of Russian military intelligence who provided a range of opinions on what the relevance of the presence of a doctor in a foreign-operations team means. While some stated that GRU was known to form multi-functional and multi-skilled teams as part of operational “best practices”, others suggested that a doctor would be a mandatory addition to a team tasked with poisoning a target — either for ensuring effective application of the chemical, or to protect team members from accidental self-poisoning.

The new findings also require a renewed analysis of the travel itinerary of Mishkin across Western Europe in the period 2016-2018, previously disclosed by Bellingcat.

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399 Comments

  1. mmmmmmm

    Come on Russian trolls…its over now…your denials are a joke. To keep pretending we don’t all know ‘who done it’ is quite frankly embarrassing. Now a third agent has been exposed…won’t be long until his granny does a runner too!

    Reply
    • Alex

      Agents? I`d say they are just a clowns. Too much questions in this case:
      1. Do anybody really believe that such operations can be done so unprofessional? There are hundreds of methods to kill some guy in much more efficient way.
      2. Why russian agents didn`t kill that guy before? Eight years have past since he was exchanged.
      3. GRU was replaced by G.U. in 1992, which is engaged only in military operations. Now in Russia there are several other organizations that are engaged in foreign intelligence.
      4. As evidence, there are only similarities between photos? How many photo-similar people can be found in Russia?
      5. Are there any kind of video or photo with that two clowns putting poison on the door handle?
      6. Where is mr. Scripal, why police hiding him? Why he was not killed by a very effective chemical warfare agent?
      7. Why agents travelling with warfare agent by plane and got caught on hundreds of cameras (except Scripal`s house cameras)? There are plenty of other ways to get into the country unnoticed.

      And that is not all questions, maybe i forgot some while writing… Now you can call me a russian troll. 🙂 But aren`t these questions seem reasonable?
      Sorry for my rude language. Have fun with your “investigations”. 🙂

      Reply
      • Mr. Bleu

        Don’t make a fool out of yourself. The GRU is still very much active all over the world. Please read the article again. The photo isn’t the only evidence. Besides that, why would even Russian media seem to find people over and over again confirming the identity of the agents?
        https://theins.ru/politika/121142

        1 and 5, you are contradicting yourself.

        If you actually wanted answers to these questions you should have read the reports. But it seems you’re just here to pollute the discussions.

        Reply
        • Alex

          Russian and English media are only trying to take the desired for reality. For example, in Russia it is impossible to register in a non-residential building (as indicated in the article on your link). Moreover, only an idiot will register agents in the intelligence office buildings. Where they got that databases? And who is that high-anonymous sources? Very suspicious. 🙂

          1 and 5 are not contradictory. If you answer yes to 1 (as presented in most media), let’s say these are agents, then where is the real evidence for the court? You can`t blame people for walking in a certain area.

          Also, ask any former intelligence officer or even an ordinary police officer how such cases are made and how they are disclosed. What we are shown by the media and Bellingcat is more like a traveling circus, this story would be great for a new Johnny English movie.

          Again, sorry my bad language, but I hope you understand my thoughts.

          Reply
          • Mr Bleu

            The databases are pretty easy to find on different torrent sites. Bellingcat went trough years of databases to be sure the information didn’t just show up on the latest database. There names were there all these years.

            There are actually benefits if you register the GRU adress. For instance: Registering your car will give you bonuses. You are put on a special list so the traffic police can’t stop, the fines for drunk driving etc. never apply to you, and you don’t need to pay car tax.

            Also the car he had when he still had his old identity was “sold” to his new identity. CITeam reported about Chepiga selling his car to Mishkin. Leaving a paper trail.

            The FSB announced to hunt down the sources of bellingcat. Pretty obvious they don’t mention names.

            It is not up to bellingcat to prepare a case for court. The Brits already think they have enough evidence to make a case. It is normal to present the evidence in court when the case starts, not way before that.

            Even if there were video’s of them doing it, you will probably say these vidoe’s are altered. This is exactly what Russia says about the video evidence in the MH17 case.

          • Alex

            Mr Bleu, i can`t answer your post below. Maybe this happens due to shitty WordPress engine that Bellingcat uses? IDK. But I can answer – those benefits in Russia you got by military or diplomatic certificate and special car plate numbers (I’m a retired military man and I know what I’m talking about). Passport registrations give almost nothing, regular police officers dont know where intelligence or special services are located.
            The FSB announced only leakage of passport data, it does not prove a connection with Bellingat “investigations”.
            If the British have enough evidence, why won’t they provide it? I can believe the obvious evidence, but on present moment this case looks like a comedy show.

            Also, I would appreciate if you can provide a link for some databases.

      • H. Elpin

        First of all, the bellingcat investigation (in my opinion) is not intendend to prove that the two persons tried to kill S. Skripal, but only to demonstrate that they are GU (GRU) agents. In this connection most of your “questions” are obsolete. Surely bellingcat will correct me if my impression is wrong.

        4. In the case of “Petrov”/Mishkin there is a lot of evidence as “they” not only look as the same person, but have the same first and father names as well as the date of birth. The probability of such coincidence is zero.

        Reply
      • Servus

        Dear “Alex”, the identity of the two GRU agents were IDEPENDETLY confirmed by Russian journalists (from Komiersant), Mr Mishkin and Chepiga have been recognised from the photos and their TV appearance by former neighbours and classmates.

        What if it the intention was to provide a clear signature of the attack, just like in a terrorist attack? Maybe people that disturb Russian interest in the West should get a message that we can brutally assassinate you anywhere and anytime? Maybe the warning was intended for Mr Manadorf and other involved in US presidential campaign and of course all lawyers, judges, police inspectors, politicians…anybody that could disturb the real stuff, laundering money stolen by Russian kleptocracy.

        So this is why a rare substance produced in quantities only in Russia was used (west has most likely samples of it with right isotopic signature and impurities analysis) .
        The agents knew very well that they will be followed by cameras and did not make any attempt to make this identification difficult, Chepiga wore a jacket with a rare logo, they used also Aeroflot. All here IMHO is intended to send a clear message to the intended audience, like in any other terrorist attack.

        Mr Skripal was really just a suitable, unprotected soft target, his killing send also na signal to potential traitors (and there are many, money buys everything in Russia…) If Skripal was protected or hiding, there are literally hundreds of formed Russian intelligent officers in a similar situation.

        “There are hundreds of methods to kill some guy in much more efficient way” I take your word for it, and there are several unexplained deaths in Russian comminuted in UK… but this time it was different, the person was relatively unimportant.

        Reply
        • Germann Arlington

          “So this is why a rare substance produced in quantities only in Russia was used”
          But it was used in a minute quantity contrary to the original claims.
          [50-100 grams of the heaviest substance can’t fit in 5ml bottle]

          “All here IMHO is intended to send a clear message to the intended audience, like in any other terrorist attack.”
          At the same time if the said GRU agents were in Salisbury for any other reason and did not expect to be accused of anything simply because they were not doing anything criminal (they may have been doing some spying but it’s not a crime in itself) that could explain their actions in Salisbury.
          Their interview is a lot more difficult to explain though.

          It is rather strange that you seem to consider any death of anybody connected with Russia in any way
          a Russian government assassination plot by default.
          Skripal’s unimportance seems to serve as proof as well as Litvinenko’s or Berezovsky’s importance.

          “What if it the intention was to provide a clear signature of the attack, just like in a terrorist attack?”
          After most terrorist attacks the terrorists groups claim responsibility.
          Courier delivered package with the same poison spread on Putin’s personal headed paper
          would have sent an equally stronger [or even stronger] message to everybody concerned
          and would have been much easier to deny without making fools out of Russian Intelligence Agencies.

          Reply
          • Servus

            Nice try but not on the subject but you seem to know quite a lot of interesting details….

            “It is rather strange that you seem to consider any death of anybody connected with Russia in any way” I did not say that, so, again nice try.
            There were roughly 20 deaths of “heart attack” of healthy people and one interesting suicide committed with two knives, the victim inflicted himself several deep wounds, with two knifes, quite an impressive achievement…

            “Skripal’s unimportance seems to serve as proof as well as Litvinenko’s or Berezovsky’s importance.” ????? Just say anything and occupy opponents with untangling the corkscrew logic.

            “Putin’s personal headed paper” nice try again, exaggerate the argument till it becomes meaningless. The Russian government terrorist attack in Salisbury has enough signature for right people to understand. And this is how it was read by the democratic world and thus a massive response to this attack on the democratic institutions.

        • Alex

          This is a very convenient argument. You write as a bot. But maybe you can answer my questions? Or maybe comment them?

          Reply
    • Servus

      ” mmmmmmm – October 10, 2018

      Come on Russian trolls…its over now…”

      …thus is really funny, they do answer when asked to !

      Reply
    • Chris B

      LOL.
      You BC fan boys aren’t actually known for your bright brains.
      All relevant sources in these funny reports are closed and anonymous.
      So this pixel-saga is just at tale, based on hearsay and cheeky claims, something for believers.
      In this case believers of the tale of the evil russian bear that smears his poison on every door just because he’s in the mood and doesn’t care for the consequences.
      How silly is that.
      Troll story from the UK.

      Reply
  2. Jack

    The amount of bad grammar writing, sad, pathetic, Russian trolls on this site is shockingly high. Ever heard the phrase “Methinks he protests too much”? You guys (and girls) are falling over yourselves to tell us, I am Western, Irish, living in Northern Ireland, that all this is rubbish and we should look in the mirror and Putin (may God bless him) tells the truth and we are all wrong. Look. It really is as simple as this. Russia is annoyed that they aren’t at the top table. They are annoyed that they are continually ‘ignored’ in their opinion. They are annoyed that Russian credibility, on the international stage, is really at rock bottom. Russia has only got itself to blame. What is going on in the Ukraine is disgraceful. Ukraine is a Sovereign country. Leave it alone and go away. What you guys do to defend Assad in Syria amounts to war crimes. Ex veterans tell me of Russians bombing everybody in villages to kill 1 person (if even 1 person). Killing everybody that doesn’t look white. No attempt at avoiding collateral damage. The passenger place shot down was a Russian rocket. Mobile phone transcripts proved it beyond doubt. Poisoning people in foreign countries with the professionalism of a 3 year old. These are but 4 examples. If you want to be taken seriously at the top table stop doing criminal, stupid, idiotic, evil things like these. Simple. Kapiche?

    Reply
  3. tom

    funny how russian trolls (idiots) still cannot understand how easy is find out something in our (western and demokratic) tech world.. because they are poor (smart people they killed so no technology) and dumb. china will wipe them later.. sry 4 bad eng.. thx and keep going.

    Reply
  4. Germann Arlington

    This is probably the first time in my life that I have seen an official stamp over the photo being completely invisible over the person’s clothing.

    The phone number found in Moscow online phone database (a link to the site could be useful too)
    and the insurance document differs by the first number, though it may be a data entry mistake.

    Reply
  5. alphagemini

    Thank you bellingcat, all very thorough and fascinating. Must we assume that the Russian authorities wanted to hide what they were doing in Salisbury? Might it not be the case that they are letting everyone know that they can seriously damage a nations economy easily with this poison?

    I have a couple of questions about this business. If the two arrived in Salisbury by train after the Skripals left home, how did theSkripals get infected? If there were traces of Novichok in the hotel room they used, how come they were not made just a little sick? Could it be that another agent with more Novichok planted the stuff on the Skripals door long before the Skripals left home? Could it be that the agents were there to resupply the guy that did the job?

    One of the agents was a highly qualified military doctor. Do the GRU people have an antidote to Novichok, best administered by a guy like Mishkin? Lots of loose ends it seems

    Reply
      • Grubbie

        Someone applied the novochok to the doorhandle and someone wiped it off (or at least attempted to)after the Skirpals had made contact. I don’t think that we have enough information to judge the movements of the Skirpals or the assassins but I would guess that the doctor with a backpack was part of the clean up crew.

        Reply
    • The GRU's Incompetent

      Novichok isn’t a virus they didn’t get infected, how did they come into contact with the poison if the two arrived in Salisbury after the Skripals left home? Well the answer to that is they arrived after the Skripals FIRST left home at 09:15 but not after they left home for a second time. There is a myth believed by tinfoil-hatters encouraged by the Russians that the Skripals never went home on the 4th of March. this is not true. Skripals house is at the end of Christie Miller Rd if you drive under 200 meters from his house and turn right you end up on India Avenue if you turn right again at the end of this road you end up on Devises Rd which takes you back to the city centre. The two men were filmed by a CCTV camera on a Shell garage on Wilton Rd at 11:58 there is a footpath opposite that is under 500 meters in length from Skripal’s house. If the men did go to the house they would have got there in perhaps under 10 minutes, the Skripals we can assume were not there, however, they did return home so must have done so sometime after that and before 13:30 when they left again. I/we know this because a CCTV camera on a private house on the right hand side of India Avenue just short of the junction with Devises Rd caught his car go past at around 13:31-32. We don’t know the exact time because the time stamp on the video was wrong it says 14:55, we know this has to be wrong because the Skripal’s could not have been driving at this time. And we know that the correct would have been around 13:31-32 because his car was filmed by another CCTV camera on the Devises Inn pub on Devises Rd just next to the junction with Hartington RD. The first CCTV video was published in the Mail Online and the Mirror on the 16th of March you can look it up and watch on either of those news sites, the second video was in the Mirror and I assume elsewhere on the 14th of March. Now if you have Google Earth you can go into Google Street View and take the journey from Skripal’s house, you can then see the house where the first video was taken, it has a redbrick wall, iron gates and a trampoline in the front garden, visible in the video and on Street View, if you then find the Devises Inn you can see that it has a CCTV camera under the pub sign. To have driven up India Avenue and onto Devises Rd they had to have either come from his house or have driven from St Gregory’s Avenue onto India Avenue passing within 200 meters of his house, the latter possibility that they went past but did not go home is simply not plausible.

      As to the hotel room a number of swabs were taken from the hotel room and tested at the DSTL at Porton Down, their equipment is extremely sensitive and can detect the most minute traces of organophospate chemicals, two of the swaps tested positive for Novichok but the amount was consider too low to pose a risk to anyone. I don’t know how they contaminated the room, nor do I know where in the room the contaminated swabs were taken from, I might speculate and assume they were taken from the bathroom, they might have been doing something with the nerve agent over the basin. I would also presume that when they were handling the Novichok they would have been wearing plastic gloves and that is why they did not get ill, the nerve agent in the liquid form in which it was used works by dermal absorption so as long as none touched their skin they would not get sick. Novichoks like all organophosphate nerve agents and agricultural pesticides has no specific antidote all are treated with an injection of atropine sulphate followed by various suitable anti-convulsant drugs. British soldiers are equipped with epipens containing atropine sulphate in the event of a chemical attack so they can inject themselves if necessary. Given the military backgrounds of the two Russians it’s likely that they would have received chemical weapons training at some point and Mishkin I’m sure would be familiar with the use of atropine to treat nerve agent exposure, they may have had some just in case of accidental exposure. There are some loose ends yes, but not as many as people think, certainly not as many as tinfoil-hatters and Russians claim there are.

      Unfortunately the Russians have done quite a good job of muddying the waters and getting their tinfoil-hat wearing friends like Craig Murray to spread their various conspiracies. This has as intended seriously confused the issue and made it look like there are lot more loose ends than there are and that there are lots of holes in the UK’s story when this is not the case at all. A good many of the conspiracy claims dreamed up either by Murray or the Russians have been comprehensively debunked, but people persist in believing them and spreading them. The claim that the Skripals never went hone that I have addressed is just one of these debunked conspiracy claims.

      Reply
      • francesca

        So they must have been wearing plastic gloves?
        Give me a break
        Plastic gloves wont even protect you from Glyphosate spillages.

        And apparently Nick Bailey was wearing gloves when he touched the doorknob, and still got dosed….. supposedly….
        The swabs in the hotel room were taken 2 months after the suspects were in residence.So when they left the novichok presence must have been way more potent for there still to be traces 2 months later, after all that cleaning.
        Yet no one was affected?
        Oh please, this is just laughable

        Reply
        • The GRU's Incompetent

          Good grief, sorry francesca, I’ve no idea what the hell you are talking about “Plastic gloves won’t protect you from Glyphosate spillages” and clearly neither do you, Glyphosate is a herbicide otherwise known as Roundup, so what the hell relevance it has to this, I do not know. I do know that ordinary rubber gloves will protect you from it, because I have used it loads of times. Technically from a purely chemical standpoint it is an organophosphate chemical, however, it does not effect the nervous system in the way that organophosphate insecticides or nerve agents do, since it is not a cholinesterase inhibitor, generally I try to avoid spilling it on my skin hence I wear what I would refer to as rubber gloves. But, I know that if I do get a splash on my skin, while I should obviously wash it off as it won’t be great for my health not to, it isn’t going to kill me in a matter of hours never mind minutes, and gloves should protect me just fine.

          I don’t know whether you typed Glyphosate by mistake and didn’t read through your post or you are just totally clueless but as far as your credibility is concerned have shot yourself through the foot. If you do not get the Novichok on your skin, then you are safe, I said plastic gloves but that’s a perhaps a little vague, since of course gloves for handling hazardous chemicals come in range of different plastic and rubber materials to protect against different types of chemicals. The gloves used by the British Army as part of their CBRN suits are made from butyl rubber, they would have made sure that they had gloves of the right material to guarantee protection against Novichok. The point simply is that ordinary household rubber gloves would be no use, because organophosphates of this type usually contain solvent which would degrade the material with deadly consequences. You should bear in mind they would only have been handling the chemical and therefore wearing the gloves for a very short period of time, someone using agricultural pesticides would be wearing gloves for a lot longer, for them the permeability time would be more important. In their case they would not have been wearing the gloves for long enough to worry about the chemical penetrating provided the gloves were not damaged.

          Do you just not understand the concept of dermal absorption, the nerve agent was a liquid, given what we were told possibly a liquid gel and yes there are sprayable gels, a Google search will give plenty of examples. The Novichok is a binary agent so they need to mix two batches of chemicals together to create the nerve agent, if they were perhaps doing that in the bathroom (I don’t know) provided it produced no vapour of any kind, gloves would suffice they would not need a mask. If they painted/smeared the chemical onto the door handle or IF it could be sprayed on without creating any danger of spray drift (I don’t know if that’s possible or not, I would need to see the bottle and know the exact consistency of the liquid agent to determine that) then this could be done with just gloves and no mask.

          I guess you’re just another one of these people, who’s probably never handled any sort of dangerous chemicals in their life, yet thinks they are an expert on nerve agents because, they read a page about them on Wikipedia, or maybe you just happily accept whatever your fellow conspiracists claim. Well I suggest you do a bit more reading and learn something before commenting on and arguing about matters that you clearly don’t understand.

          We do not know precisely how Nick Bailey got dosed, since that has not been definitely reported and he has not spoken publicly about what happened and there is NO supposedly about it. You’re problem I suspect is you are another tinfoil-hat wearing fool who decided on day one that it was all a crock and a conspiracy, hence your clueless comment about Glyphosate and plastic gloves. Since you don’t believe any of it, and clearly think that Nick Bailey wasn’t even poisoned, a viewpoint I consider frankly offensive, since he will have health issues for the rest of his life, you’ll believe anything else despite not having a real clue about any of this. However he was affected the dose he received was much lower than the Skripals hence he was less seriously ill.

          Yes clearly when the two men spilled the Novichok it would have been more potent but that wouldn’t have affected them because they didn’t spill any of it themselves, that is clear from the fact that they did not get ill. Without knowing precisely where the Novichok was detected in the room, I can’t say why no one else was affected, only that they weren’t, yes the traces were there for two months, but the room was only cleaned to my knowledge by the hotel staff, who we know did not get sick. It wasn’t exactly a five star hotel was it, I wouldn’t know how often or how well they cleaned the room, wherever the traces were found clearly had not been cleaned thoroughly otherwise there would have been no traces.

          You all have it in your heads that Novichoks are the most deadly substances known to man and yet this case clearly indicates otherwise, five people were poisoned and while they were all seriously ill only one died. Dawn Sturgess died because she received ten times the dose that the Skripals received and because she sprayed the nerve agent on and inhaled it thinking it was perfume, her general state of health relating to her lifestyle probably didn’t help. However, these agents work far more quickly if they are inhaled than they do if just absorbed through the skin.

          Reply
          • Lena

            As far as I understand, the Novichok was not binary. The bottle with a press-on pump contained a gel. All the assassins had to do was to put the pump button+nozzle onto the bottle.

          • francesca

            Seriously, if you’re handling Glyphosate regularly, and honestly, I think it might be time for you to give it up after the latest court findings re cancer etc, use neoprene gloves, a polymerised synthetic rubber. Plastic is not a good protection against toxic chemicals
            The door handle was said to be ground zero, where the most novichok was found,and as Bailey hadn’t had contact with the victims , as was first posited, it has been assumed the door handle was his contact, the gloves weren’t enough protection
            The notion that novichok is 10 x more potent than VX comes from the scientists who helped develop it

          • The GRU's Incompetent

            I am well aware of the court case concerning Glyphosate thanks francesca the decision of the court was a legal one determined by a jury, not a scientific one so the result proves nothing with regard to it causing cancer. Yes I use neoprene gloves, when I said plastic I meant in generic sense, because I didn’t anticipate it would be necessary to engage in an argument with a fool, about the type of gloves needed to protect against nerve agents. The two men according to the evidence were GRU officers and in the military, they are special forces obviously they would have had training with chemical weapons and would know what type of gloves they needed. They had gloves that would therefore protect them from Novichok, if plastic was the wrong word to describe the gloves so what? If you look online you can buy any number of different gloves for handling different hazardous chemicals, jeez do you want me to find a Russian supplier and provide you with an exact brand of exactly the right material. Applying the nerve agent would have taken seconds, they could have removed the gloves immediately afterwards and dropped them into a suitable bag or something for disposal later, so they only would have worn them for a very short time, with the right gloves there was no danger of the chemical penetrating through them.

            Yes it may be assumed that DS Bailey had contact with the door handle, but while the investigators know if that was the case or not, we the public do not, therefore we do not know how he received the dose. The assassins were wearing gloves made from a material that they knew would protect against Novichok, it is fair assumption that DS Bailey perhaps wasn’t, they knew what they were dealing with he didn’t. If it was the door handle hw would not have known that it was poisoned. Given your comments regarding gloves you would know that the type of material is vitally important, therefore your point is well silly.

            Yes of course the notion that Novichok is 10 x more potent than VX comes from the scientists who helped develop it, I guess you are not familiar with the concept of propaganda. Just because they said that doesn’t make it true, they are hardly going to say we developed this new chemical weapon but actually it’s a bit rubbish and doesn’t work all that well. My view is based on three facts, the DSTL at Porton Down identified Novichok and the independent OPCW confirmed their findings, the Salisbury District Hospital also confirmed that they treated all of the patients for nerve agent poisoning, this is clear evidence that Novichok at least in the form used in this case is not as dangerous as claimed, I trust this evidence ahead of the words of the scientists who may have been deliberately exaggerating.

          • The GRU's Incompetent

            Lena, My understanding is the Novichoks are binary agents, my original assumption was that it would have mixed and made up into the nerve agent in Russia then put into the perfume bottle. This was put into a box and sealed with cellophane, to make it look like a new and unopened bottle straight of the shop shelf perhaps purchased in an airport duty free. This would mean they would have no trouble taking it through an airport, because it was sealed it would not appear suspicious in anyway so no one would be tempted to open it. I was purely suggesting that the may have mixed it in the bathroom as an explanation for how it became spilt, it could just be that they attached the nozzle and pump. We know that the bottle found by Charlie Rowley was a Nina Ricci bottle and the company has confirmed that it was fake, it had an extra long applicator nozzle that would helped protect the person applying the nerve agent to the door handle. Not only would they not have wanted to commit suicide, but the people who sent them would not have wanted them dying or just getting seriously sick and requiring treatment in the UK.

        • Servus

          Replay to:
          ” francesca – October 12, 2018
          So they must have been wearing plastic gloves?
          Give me a break
          Plastic gloves wont even protect you from Glyphosate spillages.”

          Last advice in the Russian internet diviersant (troll) handbook, page 15 (it’s a thin book): “If you can’t find any logical argument, if you are against a wall and have no clue what to say and everybody just make fun of you, say something completely outrageous, illogical, out of context and silly. This will divert attention from your hopeless situation”.

          Do you remember GRU col. Strielkov, the man that announced that “we have shot down Ukrainian transport aircraft” that appeared to be a passenger one ?

          At one stage he claimed that nobody was killed in the accident because it transported dead bodies? Obviously col. Strielkov did not read the small print (“but don’t say anything easily verifiable”).
          So dear Francesca, please read the fin print at the bottom of the page 15 .-)))

          Reply
  6. Tourist

    And now you can also try to identify “Sergei Fedotow” who is the 3rd GRU agent involved in the Skripal killing.

    https://www.nzz.ch/international/fall-skripal-dritter-attentaeter-identifiziert-ld.1427369
    https://www.derstandard.de/story/2000089089161/russen-sollen-skripal-bereits-in-prag-beschattet-haben

    Unfortunatelly it’s not that easy than just using Google’s picture search on that name, there are a lot of different individuals of this name.

    And your list of 305 possible GRU agents could be another big task, for example finding photos of them, scan them biometrical and let them search by Police, customs and Interpol.

    Reply
  7. Grubbie

    Someone applied the novochok to the doorhandle and someone wiped it off (or at least attempted to)after the Skirpals had made contact. I don’t think that we have enough information to judge the movements of the Skirpals or the assassins but I would guess that the doctor with a backpack was part of the clean up crew.

    Reply
  8. pi

    Hello Alex,

    let me answer to your questions:

    1. Yes, why not. Many important things (like rocket launches, nuclear power plants) go wrong, not only in russia. Also a possibility, that the entire thing is a show of weapons and a way to threaten dissidents, which a “professional” killing (that looks like an accident) wouldn’t do.

    2. We don’t know, do you? Ask your supervisor. Why should a private person with access to Novichok have a better motif, than the Russian state? Anyway this point is not making the research for responsibility inconclusive.

    3. Obsolete, see above.

    4. Obsolete. See text, evidence is 100 %.

    5. If there was, you would say „How can they be so unprofessional to allow them being filmed. This must be fake.“ etc. See that you are trying to get immune against arguments? This is how fundamentalist religions and sects work. This should make you think.

    6. I guess he is regarded as an endangered person, so they won’t let you talk to him. On either side, the world of secret services seems distasteful to me. That’s why I appreciate Bellingcat so much for bringing light into this. Just like Edward Snowden, by the way.

    7. See 1.

    „Now you can call me a russian troll.“
    Thank you.

    „But aren`t these questions seem reasonable?“
    Nope.

    „Sorry for my rude language. Have fun with your “investigations”. “
    Your language is very nice and clear. Thanks for writing. I hope these investigations will make it a long way to state’s policies and history books. And make people concerned about Russias (and Chinas and US and …) new imperialism, that uses disinformation as a tool of ruling their people.

    Everyone of us has to learn his/her lessons in media competence and Bellingcat is helping a lot. Thank you folks!

    pi (from Germany)

    Reply
  9. Shakespeare

    Hey Bellingcat, how do you conclude that Boshirov/Chepiga and Petrov/Mishkin are GRU agents?
    Can’t see any evidence. Just blah blah.
    Do you have copies of their employment contracts?

    Reply
    • Servus

      …how about reading the full report, enough information is there, if you still don’t get it, try “google translate”.

      Reply
      • Shakespeare

        I’m only curious because I have a trial court job.
        Yes, you have collected a lot of information. But not a single proof.
        Your reports won’t hold up in any court.
        The judges and the lawyers would laugh themselves to death.
        An old but timeless adage: “Do what you do best.”

        Reply
          • Shakespeare

            Wouldn’t want to be you. I wont sell my soul to Bellingcat and SOF, NED, Atlantic Council and British semi-intelligence hams.

        • Servus

          Here we go again, “your proof would not hold up in any court”. Well congratulations for your “trial court job”. In your jurisdiction you first figure out the sentence then paragraph and then any “proof” but this is just nonsense that can be easily skipped over.

          Chepiga and Mishkin have been clearly identified, their personal information like birth dates , parents names and birth place as well, from several sources.
          Then incredible amount of small pieces of information in these databases, like reference to a phone number to GRU or several GRU street address for residence or care registration etc. Both are heroes of RF.
          So, the guys are beyond any reasonable doubt experienced and valuable GRU officers, at the end of their active duty.

          But you seem to ask for their employment contract. You would be surprised…intelligence service probably have it or will have it, this is almost certain. We have just to wait for next GRU/FSB archivist to jump the fence with suitcases (or thumb drives) of documents.

          Another way to look at it, if somebody offered $10,000 for their contract, I’m certain these would surface, everything is for sale in your homeland.

          Reply
          • Shakespeare

            Exactly – small pieces of information and no evidence.

            Did you see one of them together with the Skripals?
            Did you see on of them in front of their house?
            Did you catch on of them red handed?

            You wrote: We have just to wait …?
            Who is we? You and Hamish de Bretton-Gordon and all this MI6 and tankie hams?

          • Servus

            The “small piece of information” was used ironical, the guys have GRU headquarters as their home address, in their passport database, instead of some reference information, there was a number to actual GRU main switchboard. His car is registered to a home address that happens to be GRU academy. A rational conclusion is that these guys are affiliated with GRU.

            Who is we, you ask… ? Reptilians….

            But I guess that if somebody caught col. Chepiga’s hand holding “Nina Ricci” novichok container , our smart FSB guy would say, “It is NOT my hand !” and you would repeat it as well, “This is NOT his hand !”

    • mmmmmmm

      Shakespeare…do you have copies of Boshirov or Petrov’s employment contracts? How come they don’t exist before 2009, anywhere? How come there’s no records of their sports pills business either?

      Reply
      • Shakespeare

        Do you have evidence?
        No, you have only scans of scans and copies of copies from unnamed sources.
        Why would anyone trust Grozev’s Chepiga/Mishkin investigation? In the case of MH17 he was situated completely beside it.
        He is a wretched Bulgarian layman who is driven only by his hatred of the Russians and who lives in the rectum of the US and UK warmonger.
        Professionals look critically at your “work”. Many say Bellingcat is a forger company. The mainstream of course not. Because you are an important part of their war and anti-Russia propaganda.

        Attractive guys have time for beautiful girls. Ugly boys can not find girls, they only have Bellingcat.

        Reply
        • Lena

          Several journalists talked with people in two villages where Chepiga and Mishkin grew up. Locals recognized the two on the photos published by British police and the Russian television interview as known by them heros of Russia hailing from these two villages.

          Reply
          • Shakespeare

            How about: let’s assume, both are GRU agents. If I were their lawyer, I would recommend the following: They have been in Salisbury to watch the attack of the MI5/6 on Skripal because GRU knew in advance about the planned attack.
            It would explain the presence of GRU agents the day Skripal was attacked. Intelligence agencies, that’s the way they are.
            And what about the trace of Novichok in the London hotel room? Yes, the had short body contact with the MI5/6 hit man in Salisbury.
            My recommendation: Petrov/Mishkin and Boshirov/Chepiga should provide the personal descriptions of the MI5/6 hit man so that the British MET and intelligence services may find out the identity of the true killers.

    • H. Elpin

      The evidence is overwhelmingly strong. But you will not be convinced even by copies of their employment contracts (claiming they are faked), will you?

      Remember however that the bandit regime in Russia will be over one day, and Russian people also will be allowed to know the truth. As it was already with many facts which were denied by the Soviet state.

      Reply

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