Home Food & Shopping Novichok hitman is ‘spotted in picture at Russian military academy’

Novichok hitman is ‘spotted in picture at Russian military academy’

82
0


‘He’s a scumbag’: Putin brands ex-spy Sergei Skripal a ‘traitor’ and poison victim Dawn Sturgess ‘some homeless person’ as he claims yet again the Kremlin had nothing to do with Salisbury attack

Vladimir Putin today lashed out at the spy poisoned in the Salisbury novichok attack, branding him a ‘scumbag’ and a ‘traitor’.

The Kremlin has denied it was behind the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former double agent who sold Russian secrets to the British.

But former KGB agent Putin reaffirmed his views on those who betray Russia today in a furious outburst about Mr Skripal.

Putin told an energy forum in Moscow: ‘He is just a spy, a traitor to the motherland… He is just a scumbag.’ 

His angry comments give a rare insight into Putin’s views on Skripal – whose assassination he is accused of ordering. 

Vladimir Putin has called the spy Russia alleged poisoned in Salisbury 'a scumbag' and 'a traitor to the motherland'

Vladimir Putin has called the spy Russia alleged poisoned in Salisbury ‘a scumbag’ and ‘a traitor to the motherland’

Mr Skripal, pictured in recent years, handed over Russian secrets to MI6 and later moved to Britain in a spy swap

Mr Skripal, pictured during his time in the Russian military, handed over Russian secrets to MI6 and later moved to Britain in a spy swap

Mr Skripal, pictured (left) in recent years and (right) during his time in the Russian military, handed over Russian secrets to MI6 and later moved to Britain in a spy swap

Putin also made an apparent reference to Dawn Sturgess, the British mother-of-three who died after coming into contact with novichok in the wake of the attack.

Chuckling, Putin said: ‘If we say that Skripal was poisoned, are you saying we poisoned some homeless person there too?

‘Sometimes I’m amazed by what’s going on around this case: so some guys came to Great Britain and started poisoning homeless people? What nonsense! They work for a clean-up service, do they? 

On Skirpal, he added: ‘This is a traitor, he got caught, was punished and spent a total of five years in jail. We let him go. That’s it.

‘He left and then continued to collaborate with some secret services, consulting them. So what? What are we talking about here?’ 

It was the first time Mr Putin has directly condemned Mr Skripal, who spent weeks in hospital with his daughter Yulia after both were poisoned in Salisbury in March.

It also confirms that Russia believes Skripal was still working with spy agencies after he was brought to Britain.

The Russian leader reiterated his country’s claim that it has nothing to do with the poisoning.

Anatoliy Chepiga in an image from the Far-Eastern Military Academy

Chepiga appearing under the alias Ruslan Boshirov on RT in September

This new photograph of Salisbury poisoning suspect of Anatoliy Chepiga (left) seems to match existing images of ‘Ruslan Boshirov’ – the pseudonym Chepiga used when he appeared on RT in September (right). This would provide more evidence against the Kremlin’s denials 

Chepiga, 39, was believed to be using the name Ruslan Boshirov when he and accomplice, identified under another alias, 'Alexander Petrov', poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March. The two men are seen on CCTV at Salisbury railway station

Chepiga, 39, was believed to be using the name Ruslan Boshirov when he and accomplice, identified under another alias, ‘Alexander Petrov’, poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March. The two men are seen on CCTV at Salisbury railway station

His comments came after a new picture emerged of one of the assassins involved in the attack, GRU agent Anatoliy Chepiga. 

The image seems to disprove Kremlin claims he was not a senior agent who was made a Hero of Russia during a secret ceremony in 2014.

The new picture was uncovered by journalists at a Prague-based radio station trawled through hundreds of photos from a wall of heroes at the Far-Eastern Military Academy, which Chepiga graduated from in 2001.  

‘From various photographs it could be seen that the wall is decorated with portraits of alumni who have received the Hero of the Russian Federation award,’ reported the Britain-based Bellingcat website, which has led revelations on the story .

A portrait resembling Chepiga on the far end of the wall had already been pictured several times, but previously it had not been of sufficient high revolution to establish a conclusive match. 

Dawn Sturgess

Charlie Rowley

Dawn Sturgess (left) died after spraying Novichok on her wrists thinking it was a perfume. Her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, (right) fell critically ill but recovered. Both photos are undated 

Chepiga is said to appear in this photo (circled) with a group of fellow military graduates in Chechnya

Chepiga is said to appear in this photo (circled) with a group of fellow military graduates in Chechnya

Now a new image has emerged showing ‘the face and name of Col. Chepiga with sufficient quality to make identification possible,’ Bellingcat said. The site claims this matches existing photos of Chepiga, including CCTV stills from Salisbury.

It concluded: ‘This new photo, seen against the backdrop of a mountain of additional evidence, will present a fresh challenge to Russian authorities who can no longer credibly deny — or even equivocate — that it was Colonel Chepiga who, in his own words, travelled to and back from Salisbury, and that he was furthermore the recipient of the Hero of the Russian Federation award, traditionally presented by the Russian president himself.’

Chepiga, 39, was believed to be using the name Ruslan Boshirov when he and accomplice, identified under another alias, ‘Alexander Petrov’, poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March.   

In a separate new revelation, it has been alleged that Chepiga helped spring toppled Ukrainian pro-Putin president Viktor Yanukovych to safety during the 2014 revolution in Kiev, the possible reason for him being made a Hero of Russia.  

Investigative website Bellingcat found Col Chepiga's passport photo from 2003 (left) and saw it bore a similarity to 'Ruslan Boshirov's' passport photo from 2009 (middle) and the one on his cover passport (right)

Investigative website Bellingcat found Col Chepiga’s passport photo from 2003 (left) and saw it bore a similarity to ‘Ruslan Boshirov’s’ passport photo from 2009 (middle) and the one on his cover passport (right)

Chepiga, posing as Boshirov, (left) was captured on CCTV laughing with Alexander Petrov shortly after the attack on March 4

Chepiga, posing as Boshirov, (left) was captured on CCTV laughing with Alexander Petrov shortly after the attack on March 4

Russian journalist Sergey Kanev of the Dose [Dossier] Centre also claimed Chepiga’s wife Galina, with whom he shares two children, had also worked as an undercover agent. Kanev fled Russia before making his claims and is now ‘safe’ abroad.

Yanukovych was spirited out of Ukraine in 2014 as protesters took hold of capital city Kiev.

The fallen president – renowned for his gargantuan corruption – claimed he was shot at as he fled. 

How Bellingcat worked out the ‘Ruslan Boshirov’s’ true identity

Acting on the assumption ‘Ruslan Boshirov’ was a GRU officer, Bellingcat spoke to former Russian military officers to ask where he might have been trained.

One suggested the Far Eastern Military Command Academy, so they browsed through its graduation photos to find a man who resembled him. 

They found one possible match, which seemed to show him with a group of graduates in Chechnya (see top of the article).

The photo said seven of the men had won at Hero of the Russian Federation of the award, so Bellingcat searched the award on the Internet along with ‘Far Eastern Military Command Academy’ and ‘Chechnya’.

This led to a page of the Volunteer Union website, which listed a colonel called Anatoliy Chepiga, who was linked to all three search terms. 

They then found his name twice in leaked lists of residential addresses, which gave his date of birth as April 5, 1979. This was one year later than ‘Boshirov’s’ cover documents, but matched up with his graduation from the military academy.  

Bellingcat then obtained a passport file for Col Chepiga from 2003, and found his photo strongly matched a 2009 passport photo of ‘Boshirov’ released by UK police, as well as his cover passport shot. 

He was smuggled to Crimea and now lives under close guard in Russia.

‘Chepiga-Boshirov took part in the evacuation of Yanukovych to Russia – at least my sources claim so,’ wrote Kanev.

‘He and his special forces unit arrived at the Yanukovych residence in Mezhyhirya (near Kiev). He was there, guarding (Yanukovych). They transported him from there to Crimea and further to Russia.’

One theory is that he was taken to safety by a Russian submarine.

The operation was led by former Putin bodyguard Alexey Dyumin, now governor of Tula region.

Dyumin is being groomed by Putin as his choice as his Kremlin successor, claim some experts.

Putin is known to have taken an exceptionally close interest in the operation to spring Yanukovych which – combined with the medal award – would suggest he knew of Chepiga at first hand.

Soon after Yanukovych was taken to Russia, Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine sparking outrage in the West.

Chepiga’s wife is said to have worked as a ‘freelance’ in a detachment ‘of special purpose’ of Khabarovsk region. The military unit was 20662.

Chepiga was also attached to the same military unit where his wife allegedly worked undercover.

Later both were traced to an address in Moscow listed in a student hostel of the Russian State University for Humanities on Kirovogradskaya Street.

Yanukovych’s lawyer denied Chepiga has played a role in his rescue.

Vitaly Serdyuk said: ‘Assistance in the flight to Crimea of Viktor Yanukovych was provided by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, and not by the well-known citizens Boshirov and Petrov, who with one stroke of the journalistic pen appeared in this story.’

This undated image is alleged to show Chepiga (circled) posing with fellow members of the Russian military

This undated image is alleged to show Chepiga (circled) posing with fellow members of the Russian military

Putin’s lies over the Salibury poisoning were exposed by Bellingcat when it named Colonel Chepiga on September 26. 

What is Bellingcat?

Bellingcat is a British investigative journalism website that specialises on war and the criminal underground. 

It started as a blog in 2012 by Eliot Higgins, and relies on information gathered by ‘citizen journalists’ – members of the public who do not work for a professional journalism organisation.

The site first received international attention for its analysis of forged data on satellite pictures showing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 during the war in Ukraine.

Its name comes from the expression ‘belling a cat’, which derives from a medieval fairytale about mice which plan to make a cat harmless by putting a bell around its neck.

Only a few weeks before, Vladimir Putin went on television to claim that two suspects captured on CCTV were civilians and not GRU military intelligence officers.

The Kremlin was branded shameful for claiming Chepiga and his unknown accomplice, who used the alias Alexander Petrov, were holidaymakers.

Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘Utterly predictable news that GRU is behind Skripal atrocity.’

The former foreign secretary added: ‘What have you got to say, Putin?’

The two Russian agents were charged over the poisonings by the Crown Prosecution Service earlier this month.

But they later appeared on Russian TV to insist they were visiting Salisbury for its cathedral.

As the bungled attack that left one dead and three seriously ill took another twist: It emerged that Chepiga fought for a feared Spetsnaz unit for 17 years and worked undercover for at least nine.   

Bellingcat obtained passport files Col Chepiga which included his address and date of birth

Bellingcat obtained passport files Col Chepiga which included his address and date of birth

Theresa May attacks Putin at the UN for his ‘desperate fabrication’ over the Salisbury spy poisoning

The Prime Minister attacked Russia for its ‘desperate fabrication’ over the Salisbury spy poisoning as she addressed world leaders in New York in September.

Britain has set out detailed evidence about the prime suspects in the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia while Russia has only sought to ‘obfuscate’, she said. 

Theresa May lambasted Russia for its 'desperate fabrication' over the Salisbury poisoning while addressing the General Assembly of the UN on Wednesday

Theresa May lambasted Russia for its ‘desperate fabrication’ over the Salisbury poisoning while addressing the General Assembly of the UN on Wednesday

Mrs May told the United Nations Security Council: ‘We have taken appropriate action, with our allies, and we will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our collective security. Russia has only sought to obfuscate through desperate fabrication.’

Mrs May called on Russia to rejoin the international consensus against the use of chemical weapons and said there should be no doubt of the international community’s determination to take action if it did not.

She said: ‘We cannot let the framework be undermined today by those who reject the values and disregard the rules that have kept us safe.

‘It will take collective engagement to reinforce it in the face of today’s challenges. And in this, as has always been the case, the UK will play a leading role.’ 

Sources said the soldier’s high rank – the same as his intended victim, Colonel Sergei Skripal – suggested the attack was sanctioned at the highest level.

Senior politicians queued up to accuse the Russians of being ‘seriously dishonest’ and lying about their complicity.

What is the Novichok nerve agent used against the Skripals?

Novichok was secretly developed by the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold war in the 1970s and 1980s.

Communist scientists developed the poison so it would not be able to be detected by Nato’s chemical detection equipment.

They come in the form of a ultra-fine powder, Novichok is up to eight times more potent than the deadly VX gas.

Victims who are poisoned by the powder suffer muscle spasms, breathing problems and then cardiac arrest.

There is a known antidote to the nerve agent –  atropine can block the poison.

But doctors find it very tricky to administer the antidote because the dose would have to be so high it could prove fatal for the person.

The identity of Chepiga was uncovered by investigative organisation Bellingcat, best known for its insight into the fighting in Ukraine.

It found that Chepiga has won more than 20 awards and a Hero of the Russian Federation medal during his illustrious military career.

Born in the isolated village of Nikolayevka, on the Russian-Chinese border in 1979, he is married with a teenage son.

In 2001 he graduated from the Far-Eastern Military Command Academy before being deployed to Chechnya three times.

Its website states: ‘Anatoly Vladimirovich Chepiga was awarded the honorary title of Hero of the Russian Federation by order of the president of the Russian Federation.’

His name appears under a gold star honour list on a monument to academy alumni at a base near the Chinese border.

The medals are normally awarded by the president personally, and are given only to a handful of people each year.

Unlike most recipients there is little public information about Chepiga’s life and official documents are marked ‘top secret’.

The secretive nature of the award, combined with its timing in 2014, suggests it was for actions in Ukraine. His Spetsnaz unit was pictured on the eastern Ukraine border. 

This undated image shows Sergei Skripal (right) and his daughter Yulia eating at a restaurant 

This undated image shows Sergei Skripal (right) and his daughter Yulia eating at a restaurant 

Now looking even more shaky… The ‘farcical’ RT interview that saw the would-be assassins claim they were innocent civilians

CCTV released by police places the two suspects at Sergei Skripal’s suburban house.

Today the men admitted they may have ended up there – but claimed it was an accident.

The property, which had Novichok smeared on the door, is 25 minutes away from the city centre and its cathedral – which the men said they were there to see. 

Ruslan Boshirov said: ‘Maybe we passed it, or maybe we didn’t. I’d never heard about them before this nightmare started. I’d never heard this name before. I didn’t know anything about them’.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were guests at the City Stay Hotel in Bow, East London, before poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed today that ‘low’ levels of the nerve agent were found in the two-star £48 a night hotel in May.

The men chose a spot some distance from Waterloo – the main rail route to Salisbury – despite making the Wiltshire city the focus of their visit.

It is 127 miles from Salisbury. 

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov claimed that they only stayed in Salisbury because of heavy snow.

The pair visited days after the Beast from the East hit Britain bringing unseasonably cold weather.

Describing the condition  Boshirov said: ‘It was impossible to get anywhere because of the snow. We were drenched up to our knees’.

But CCTV pictures of the men shows the pavements were largely clear of snow.

They also told RT that it snowed in the city that afternoon, but weather maps from that day show sunshine and clear skies.  

The men went straight from Salisbury to Heathrow for the evening flight.

But CCTV suggested that they did not have any luggage with them on their way home.    

Investigators also found documents that trace Chepiga’s movements around Russia and Europe.

He pops up at a remote military unit and in Moscow where he is likely to have studied at the Military Diplomatic Academy, or ‘GRU Conservatory’.

The GRU was betrayed by Mr Skripal before he was jailed and sent to the UK in a spy swap. He and his daughter were poisoned in March in Salisbury.

Chepiga and Petrov are also accused of murdering Dawn Sturgess, who was inadvertently poisoned when she discovered a perfume bottle filled with the deadly novichok nerve agent used on the Skripals.

Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: ‘It is confirmation of what we have known for a long time – that Russia is serially dishonest in its foreign affairs and has again lied about its complicity.

‘These guys are amateurs. Their cover couldn’t even survive investigation by newspapers.’

The two Russian agents on Fisherton Road in Salisbury around the time of the attack in March

The two Russian agents on Fisherton Road in Salisbury around the time of the attack in March

This map shows the progress of the spies’ assassination plot, as police managed to piece together using CCTV 

A timeline of the key developments in the Salisbury poisoning case

– Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer jailed for spying for Britain, is released and flown to the UK as part of a swap with Russian agents caught in the United States. He settles in Salisbury.

– Yulia Skripal arrives at Heathrow Airport from Russia to visit her father in England.

– Sergei Skripal’s burgundy BMW is seen in suburban Salisbury, near a cemetery, where his wife and son are commemorated.

– The BMW is seen driving toward central Salisbury.

– The BMW is parked at a lot in central Salisbury.

A police officer stands guard outside the Zizzi restaurant where Sergei and Yulia had lunch before they collapsed in a nearby park

A police officer stands guard outside the Zizzi restaurant where Sergei and Yulia had lunch before they collapsed in a nearby park

– Sergei and Yulia Skripal visit the Bishops Mill pub.

– Sergei and Yulia Skripal have lunch at the Zizzi restaurant.

 – Emergency services are called by a passer-by concerned about a man and a woman in Salisbury city centre.

Officers find the Skripals unconscious on a bench. They are taken to Salisbury District Hospital, where they remain in critical condition.

– Police say two people in Salisbury are being treated for suspected exposure to an unknown substance. 

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was among the first police officers on the scene and was himself hospitalised

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was among the first police officers on the scene and was himself hospitalised

– Wiltshire Police, along with Public Health England, declare a ‘major incident’

– Police announce that the Skripals were likely poisoned with a nerve agent in a targeted murder attempt.

They disclose that a police officer who responded to the incident is in serious condition in a hospital.

– Home Secretary Amber Rudd describes the use of a nerve agent on UK soil was a ‘brazen and reckless act’ of attempted murder

– About 180 troops trained in chemical warfare and decontamination are deployed to Salisbury to help with the police investigation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow might be willing to assist with the investigation but expresses resentment at suggestions the Kremlin was behind the attack. 

– Public health officials tell people who visited the Zizzi restaurant or Bishops Mill pub in Salisbury on the day of the attack or the next day to wash their clothes as a precaution.

– Prime Minister Theresa May tells the House of Commons that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. 

– Public Health England ask everyone who visited Salisbury town centre on the day of the attack to wash all of their clothes and belongings. 

Officers wearing chemical protection suits secure the forensic tent over the bench where Sergei and Yulia fell ill

Officers wearing chemical protection suits secure the forensic tent over the bench where Sergei and Yulia fell ill

– The PM announces the expulsion of 23 suspected Russian spies from the country’s UK Embassy.  

– Nick Bailey, the police officer injured in the attack, is released from hospital.  

– The United States and 22 other countries join Britain in expelling scores of Russian spies from capitals across the globe. 

 – Doctors say Yulia Skripal is ‘improving rapidly’ in hospital. 

‘ – Dutch authorities expelled two suspected Russian spies who tried to hack into a Swiss laboratory

– The chief of the Porton Down defence laboratory said it could not verify the ‘precise source’ of the nerve agent.  

 – Yulia Skripal’s cousin Viktoria says she has received a call from Yulia saying she plans to leave hospital soon.

Dawn Sturgess died in hospital on July 8

Dawn Sturgess died in hospital on July 8

 – A statement on behalf of Yulia is released by Metropolitan Police, in which she says her strength is ‘growing daily’ and that ‘daddy is fine’.

– Ms Skripal is released from hospital and moved to a secure location.

 – Sergei Skripal is released from hospital 11 weeks after he was poisoned.

– Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley fall ill at a property in Amesbury, which is eight miles from Salisbury, and are rushed to hospital.

– Police declare a major incident after Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley are exposed to an ‘unknown substance’, later revealed to be Novichok. 

– Sajid Javid demands an explanation over the two poisonings as he accuses the Russian state of using Britain as a ‘dumping ground for poison’. 

– Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, 44, dies in hospital due to coming into contact with Novichok.

– Mr Rowley regains consciousness at hospital, and later tells his brother that Dawn had sprayed the Novichok onto her wrists.

– Police are believed to have identified the perpetrators of the attack.

 –  Charlie Rowley is rushed to hospital as he starts to lose his site, but doctors can’t confirm whether it has anything to do with the poisoning.

 – Charlie Rowley admitted to intensive care unit with meningitis 

  – Police call in the ‘super recognisers’  in bid to track down the poisoners

 –  Charlie Rowley’s brother says he has ‘lost all hope’ and doesn’t have long to live.

Independent investigators, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, confirm the toxic chemical that killed Ms Sturgess was the same nerve agent as that which poisoned the Skripals. 

 – Scotland Yard and CPS announce enough evidence to charge Russian nationals Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov for conspiracy to murder over Salisbury nerve agent attack. 

 – Britain’s most wanted men speak to RT and claim to be humble tourists 

– The real identity of one of the two assassins, named by police as Ruslan Boshirov, is reported to be Colonel Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga.

New photo emerges that appears to show Col Chepiga on the Wall of Heroes at the Far-Eastern Military Academy, providing more evidence against the Kremlin’s denials. 

Advertisement

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here