Report: UK poison suspect is doctor for Russian intelligence
LONDON (AP) — One of the two suspects in the poisoning of an ex-spy in England is a doctor who works for Russian military intelligence and traveled to Britain under an alias, investigative group Bellingcat reported Monday.
Bellingcat said on its website that the man British authorities identified as Alexander Petrov is actually Alexander Mishkin, a doctor working for the Russian military intelligence unit known as GRU.
British officials said when they charged two Russians last month in the March nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter that they believed Petrov was an assumed name.
The other suspect also traveled to Salisbury, England, under an alias — Ruslan Boshirov. — but is a decorated Russian agent named Anatoliy Chepiga, Bellingcat reported last month.
The group said it would provide forensic evidence and other information it used to conclude Petrov was Mishkin on Tuesday. There was no immediate comment on the Bellingcat report by either the Russian or British governments.
The poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian agent who was convicted of spying for Britain, became a major international incident. British authorities said the former spy and his daughter, Yulia, were sickened by a Soviet-made nerve agent.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack was likely ordered at the highest levels of the Russia government, an allegation vehemently rejected by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Bellingcat’s latest investigation said Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk District in northern Russia and graduated from the elite Military Medical Academies, where he was trained for medical work in the Russian navy.
He was recruited by the secretive GRU, given the undercover identity of Alexander Petrov when he was stationed in Moscow and made multiple trips to Ukraine, the investigative group said.
After Britain charged the two Russians with trying to kill the Skripals, the suspects appeared on Russian TV to deny a role in the Salisbury poisonings. They said they went to the city to visit its cathedral.
The father and daughter survived after a lengthy hospital stay in intensive care. But the nerve agent killed a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, and seriously sickened her partner.
British police have said they think the couple was exposed to the substance in June from traces in the bottle that had contained the Novichok used to poison the Skripals months earlier.
The use of a banned nerve agent produced by the Soviet Union during the Cold War in a small English city has focused attention on the GRU, a Russian military intelligence unit that Western officials say is linked to a number of recent computer security hacks.
British, Dutch and U.S. officials have accused the GRU of trying to hack the computers of international agencies, masterminding a devastating 2017 cyberattack on Ukraine and being behind stolen emails that roiled the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Last week, authorities in the Netherlands alleged the GRU tried and failed into the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The U.S. Justice Department also charged seven GRU officers in an alleged international hacking rampage that targeted more than 250 athletes, a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company, a Swiss chemical laboratory and the chemical weapons watchdog.