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BellingChat Episode 3 – Hunting the The Salisbury Poisonings Suspects

June 16, 2020

By Bellingcat Podcast

The new BBC series The Salisbury Poisonings tells the story of the impact of the Skripal assassination attempt on the people of Salisbury, but what do we know about the two suspects identified by UK authorities? Bellingcat’s Christo Grozev explains the work he did to reveal the true identities of the Skripal suspects, how he identified their commanders, and how that connected to other Russian spy operations, from assassination to coup attempts, across Europe.

Below is a selection of investigations mentioned in the episode:

Skripal Suspect Boshirov Identified as GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga

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

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

Third Suspect in Skripal Poisoning Identified as Denis Sergeev, High-Ranking GRU Officer

Third Skripal Suspect Linked to 2015 Bulgaria Poisoning

The Dreadful Eight: GRU’s Unit 29155 and the 2015 Poisoning of Emilian Gebrev

Skripal Poisoner Attended GRU Commander Family Wedding

GRU Globetrotters 2: The Spies Who Loved Switzerland

Second GRU Officer Indicted in Montenegro Coup Unmasked

305 Car Registrations May Point to Massive GRU Security Breach

An Officer And A Diplomat: The Strange Case Of The GRU Spy With A Red Notice

You can support our work and podcast with Patreon, where we’ll be sharing additional BellingChat content that didn’t make it into the episode.

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28 Comments

  1. Amused

    It was a Fedora hat – you made a GIF of it and you didn’t look at it carefully, 🙂 sloppy 😉

    Reply
  2. Molly Kolodny

    Neither the UK government nor police have ever endorsed Bellingcat’s claims about the ‘real’ identities of Petrov and Boshirov.

    Probably because the UK government has in its possession the best proof of identity available, their visa applications.

    Reply
    • Macaco

      The Metropolitan Police have stated that the “Petrov” and “Boshirov” are aliases. Hence their fraudulent visa applications are far from the “best proof of identity available”.

      Reply
      • Molly Kolodny

        The visa process to enter the UK from Russia is pretty exhaustive I understand and involves biometric data that can’t be faked as well as background checks and all that sort of thing.

        Again, neither the UK government nor the police nor the security services have endorsed Bellingcat’s claims. That makes it pretty much conclusive for me that Bellingcat’s claims are not true. If they were true, the government would say so.

        Reply
        • N.Quirin

          In a statement, the EU said:

          Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin “possessed, transported and then, during the weekend of 4 March 2018, in Salisbury, used a toxic nerve agent” for which the UK has charged them with attempted murder
          Igor Olegovich Kostyukov, head of the GRU, and Vladimir Stepanovich Alexseyev, the deputy head, are both accused, “given his senior leadership role” to be “responsible for the possession, transport and use” of the nerve agent

          https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32019R0084&from=EN

          Reply
        • Sean Lamb

          What you say makes logical sense, of course.
          However, in the immediate aftermath of the Met identification the Russian Government requested that Moscow embassy release the biometric data (strongly hinting while doing so that the embassy had never received any visa applications). The embassy made no comment (nor did it release any biometric data to the Russian government)

          However shortly afterwards another Bellingcat “investigation” (as it pleases them to describe them) “proved” the FSB had successfully hacked the UK immigration system and granted themselves the visas.

          https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/russia-uk-visa-hack-system-documents-skripal-poisoning-agents-salisbury-novichok-a8637931.html

          Welcome to the UK in the 21st Century – where no claim is too deranged for the slack-jawed yokels to nod vacuously in response.

          Reply
          • N.Quirin

            In addition, OFAC has added the following names to its SDN List.

            CHEPIGA, Anatoliy Vladimirovich (a.k.a. BOSHIROV, Ruslan), Moscow, Russia; DOB 05 Apr 1979; alt. DOB 12 Apr 1978; POB Nikolaevka, Amur Oblast, Russia; alt. POB Dushanbe, Tajikistan; nationality Russia; Gender Male (individual) [CAATSA – RUSSIA] (Linked To: MAIN INTELLIGENCE DIRECTORATE).

            MISHKIN, Alexander Yevgeniyevich (a.k.a. PETROV, Alexander), Moscow, Russia; DOB 13 Jul 1979; POB Loyga, Russia; alt. POB Kotlas, Russia; nationality Russia; Gender Male (individual) [CAATSA – RUSSIA] (Linked To: MAIN INTELLIGENCE DIRECTORATE).

            https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20181219_33.aspx

  3. Logjam

    Whether the true target in this case was Sergei or Yulia, no effort has been made to investigate the way Yulia was shadowed to her father’s home. However, given the factual evidence of the perfume bottle, it seems that Yulia may have been a sort of mule. The perfume bottle may have been a ruse to introduce the poison to the Skripal household in the form of a present which would then have been used by Yulia on herself, causing, by a natural request for her Father to “take a sniff of her wrist” for example, the poison to be transferred to her father.
    The perpetrators, not finding the Skripals home, then sprayed the stuff on the door, making their escape as recorded and so on. The fact that no effort has been made to follow this line of investigation publicly, makes me wonder if they have more clues than we or Bellicat know.

    Reply
    • Bill

      I’d have thought a perfume bottle was a perfect method to smuggle a small amount of clear liquid through airport security. If less then 50ml- could have been in hand baggage

      Reply
    • I.Ivanov

      The most natural suggestion is that the bottle was masked as perfume to smuggle it into Britain. I do not believe that Chepiga and Mishkin have heavily deviated from their instructions. But it is well possible that their mission as well as true identities were not unknown to west secret services.

      Reply
      • Molly Kolodny

        They can’t have done as they wouldn’t be allowed to carry the ‘perfume’ in hand luggage and they didn’t put any luggage in the hold. We know this because of how fast they cleared customs and entered the UK. They weren’t waiting for any checked in luggage.

        Reply
        • I.Ivanov

          My wife has no problem to carry the perfume in hand ladggage, provided that it less than 100 ml. And if one has a confirmation that the bottle is bought in a Tax Free Shop nobody will bother anyway. And for GRU agents such a confirmation is for free, did not you know? 😉

          Reply
          • Molly Kolodny

            Not without taking the perfume bottle out of its packaging and putting it in a clear plastic bag. The perfume bottle found in Salisbury was sealed in its box.

    • Molly Kolodny

      There’s no evidence Petrov or Boshirov were ever closer than 600 yards from the Skripal house.

      Reply
      • I.Ivanov

        Have Chepiga and Mishkin persanally communicated to you that they left no traces? I would rather ask what has happened with them after the interview by Simonyan. They just disappeared as if they never existed…

        Reply
      • I.Ivanov

        Have Chepiga and Mishkin personally communicated to you that they left no evidence? Iwould rather ask what has happened with the guys after the TV interview. They disappeared. Would you like to search for evidences?

        Reply
        • Molly Kolodny

          Again, there’s no evidence Petrov or Boshirov were ever closer than 600 yards from the Skripal house.

          Reply
          • I. Ivanov

            I would say even more: there is no evidence that Petrov and Boshirov ever existed as real people. 😉

        • Molly Kolodny

          No proof has been presented that they are even Russians. Perhaps they are Ukrainians. If they are Ukrainian they wouldn’t need a visa I believe.

          Reply
          • I. Ivanov

            Ukrainian travelling with Russian passports? You are funny.

  4. Stephen Burt

    It does not mater a slightest bit if we do know their names, rank, address DOB, or anything else about them, whats going to happen? Absolutely nothing! Since Thatcher we have had no real Leaders, so our government cant/wont do anything as they are too scared of repercussions! But the real truth is, Russia couldn’t give a damn if we know everything anyway as they also know we cant/wont do anything. So its all a bit of a waste of everyones time really. Russia can, and will do exactly what it wants, whenever it wants and there aint no one going to stop them, least of all us!! Same goes for China, they are slowly but surely taking over the World and yet every (so called) Leader cant/wont say or do anything. Shameful that no one ever bothers to report the truth.

    Reply
    • I. Ivanov

      I think the two guys are very lucky if they are still alive. In any case they lost their luxury flats. Also the GRU chef has died under quite suspicious circumstances. So maybe such investigations are not completely in vain.

      Reply
  5. Artie Fishal

    Where to start? Firstly, the agent that kills you deader than Betamax in 1:30, tops, is applied on the exterior of a doorhandle that somehow both Skripals touched on the way out – try that for yourself, see how likely it is for two people exiting a house to both touch the exterior hardware on the front door. Then, they drive into town, find a place to park, walk to the restaurant, order and begin to consume a meal at some point during which, Skripal Senior is taken ill – staggering to the infamous bench. And the first person passing by just happens to be the Chief Nursing Officer of the British Army, because it just happens to be the middle of Exercise ‘Toxic Dagger’, run by 40 Cdo Brigade and the DTSL, which is based in Salisbury. Also, the original toxicology report came back positive for Fentanyl, not Novichok – which, if anything makes sense as the one substance Russia DOESN’T have is… Novichok. Their stocks were manufactured outside of Russia and decommissioned in their entirety by the USA. Which keeps a stock ‘just in case.’ Finally, the day BEFORE the British couple were poisoned, I happened to be driving through Salisbury on the way back from Holiday. On a blisteringly hot day, we were shepherded through town from one end to the other by a series of marked Police cars and the area had been cordoned off. The day BEFORE. Are the British police now psychic?

    Reply
  6. karl booth

    The Porton Down head army nurse was in the Salisbury area conducting poisonings, research it!

    Reply

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