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Who is the ‘hero’ Russian colonel suspected of the Salisbury attack?



A Russian man accused of the Salisbury poisoning has been exposed as a military officer who received an honour from Vladimir Putin.

It comes weeks after the Russian president went on television to claim that two suspects captured on CCTV were civilians and not GRU military intelligence officers.

Here’s what we know about Ruslan Boshirov, whose real name is Anatoliy Chepiga:

Investigative website Bellingcat has concluded that Chepiga is in fact an undercover officer of GRU, along with his suspected accomplice “Alexander Petrov” – which is also an alias.

The two Russian are accused of poisoning former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March with the nerve agent novichok.

Chepiga has been identified as a highly-decorated Russian colonel.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with novichok and found slumped on a bench in Salisbury in March
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with novichok and found slumped on a bench in Salisbury in March

He was born on 5 April 1978 and graduated into the military following a stint at one of Russia’s elite training grounds, the Far-Eastern Military Command Academy, according to Bellingcat.

The 39-year-old had come under the alias Ruslan Boshirov and is a top-level officer in the GRU who has served in Chechnya and Ukraine.

President Putin awarded him Russia’s highest bravery honour, the Hero of the Russian Federation award, in 2014 under his real name.

The top-level GRU officer has been handed more than 20 awards, as well as the Hero medal. Unlike most of other recipients, few details are available on why he was honoured.

Bellingcat suggested the award may have been given for the service in Ukraine, where Mr Putin’s troops are accused of backing pro-Moscow rebels fighting government forces.

The Home Office said it could neither confirm nor deny the reporting about the suspect’s real identity.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says Theresa May is not informed
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the claims

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the claims, saying they are part of an “information campaign”.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson appeared to confirm the story in a now-deleted tweet.

He said: “The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian Colonel. I want to thank all the people who are working so tirelessly on this case.”

Mr Boshirov (left) and Mr Petrov were named as suspects by the UK
Mr Boshirov (left) and Mr Petrov were named as suspects by the UK

The Kremlin was branded shameful on Wednesday night after claiming Chepiga and his unknown accomplice were holidaymakers – as Russian lies were seemingly exposed.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson also tweeted: “Utterly predictable news that GRU is behind Skripal atrocity.

“What have you got to say, Putin?”

Earlier this month, Britain accused Russia of “lies and blatant fabrications” after the suspects appeared on Russian television to insist they were visiting Salisbury for its cathedral.

Novichok suspects


Novichok attack suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov have denied the Salisbury poisoning in a TV interview in Russia.

The pair claimed they had been left fearing for their lives after Britain accused them of being involved in the attack and said they were officers in the GRU.

Downing Street said the interview was “deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack”.

Russia have identified the Skripal suspects claims Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to have awarded Chepiga with the nation’s highest military honour

It has now emerged that he fought for a feared special forces Spetsnaz unit – which is under the command of the GRU – for 17 years, and worked for at least nine.

Mr Putin insisted the men had been discounted as members of his security network and were civilians.

UK authorities believe Chepiga and his accomplice smeared the highly toxic novichok chemical on a door handle at the Wiltshire home of former GRU officer Mr Skripal, leaving him and his daughter critically ill.

Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess
Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were exposed to novichok in nearby Amesbury

On 30 June, in nearby Amesbury, Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital just over a week after the pair fell ill.

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