20:40 GMT07 May 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - UK-based investigative blogger group Bellingcat and The Insider Russia media outlet on Wednesday claimed that they identified one of the suspects in the Salisbury poisoning case, Ruslan Boshirov, as Russian military intelligence officer Anatoliy Chepiga.

    "Bellingcat has been able to confirm the actual identity of one of the two officers. The suspect using the cover identity of "Ruslan Boshirov" is in fact Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated GRU officer bestowed with Russia’s highest state award, Hero of the Russian Federation. Following Bellingcat’s own identification, multiple sources familiar with the person and/or the investigation have confirmed the suspect’s identity," the group said in a report.

    Bellingcat investigators claimed that Chepiga allegedly served in the 14th Spetsnaz Brigade, which "played a key role in the second Chechen War, and was also observed near the Ukrainian border in late 2014."

    READ MORE: UK Defense Chief Pulls Tweet Claiming Salisbury Suspect's 'True Identity' Known

    "At some point between 2003… and 2010 (the year he received his first undercover passport), Anatoliy Chepiga was assigned his alter ego, 'Ruslan Boshirov,' and was relocated to Moscow," Bellingcat said.

    The findings come as the third part of the Bellingcat investigation into the suspects of the Skripal poisoning case. The first part was issued on September 14 in which the group claimed that the suspects were linked to Russian security services. Such an assumption was explained by the fact that their internal passport under the names of Petrov and Boshirov were issued in 2009, while no records allegedly exist for these individuals prior to this year.

    READ MORE: Bellingcat Claims Petrov, Boshirov Were Busted in Netherlands Earlier

    The second part of the investigation was released on September 20, with the group claiming that it could "definitely confirm" that "both 'Alexander Petrov' and 'Ruslan Boshirov' are active GRU officers."

    Commenting on Bellingcat findings, Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubkov said it was impossible to verify whether a person is a GRU employee based on the passport database. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova doubted the credibility of the September 14 report by Bellingcat on alleged passport data, questioning why the United Kingdom found it easier to hack passport databases rather than gathering actual evidence for the poisoning.

    On September 5, the UK prosecutors charged Russian citizens Boshirov and Alexander Petrov with attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter as well as police officer Nick Bailey. UK Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russian military intelligence of orchestrating the poisoning under the order of the central authorities. However, in an interview with Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the RT broadcaster and the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, Boshirov and Petrov refuted any involvement in the Skripal case, stressing that they visited Salisbury as tourists and worked in the fitness industry.

    READ MORE: Skripal Poisoning 'Suspects' Have Nothing to Do With Putin — Kremlin

    Prior to that, on May 25, the Russian Defense Ministry also refuted Belligcat claims that Russian intelligence officers were involved in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over eastern Ukraine in 2014, stressing that "all speculations of the so-called 'investigators' are based on the old fake with the imitation of the radio interception of a conversation between unidentified persons," which was circulated by the Ukrainian Security Service the day after the tragedy.

    READ MORE: You Can't Spot Secret Agents by Looking at Passports — Russian Interior Ministry

    Skripal poisoning, Bellingcat, GRU, Ruslan Boshirov, Yulia Skripal, Sergei Skripal, Alexander Petrov, United Kingdom
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