UK: Salisbury suspect ID'd as veteran Russian officer

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – The real identity of one of the two suspects in the Salisbury nerve agent attack has been revealed as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, according to British media.

The man, who was earlier identified by British intelligence services as Ruslan Boshirov, is a decorated Russian military intelligence officer, reported online investigative sites Bellingcat and the Insider.

Chepiga, who fought in Chechnya and served in Ukraine, received the highest Russian state medal for his services, The Guardian reported.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) earlier in September said "Boshirov" and Alexander Petrov were wanted for conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and police officer Nick Bailey in March.

In an interview with Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russian TV outlet RT, the men confirmed they were the people identified by the U.K. investigators but claimed they were coincidentally in Salisbury at the time as tourists.

A British government spokesman rejected this account, saying: “The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service ‘The GRU’ who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country.”

Sergei Skripal and his daughter were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on March 4 in Salisbury. They have both since been discharged from the hospital.

Police officer Nick Bailey, who was among the first to respond to the incident, also received treatment after being poisoned.

Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he had been serving a 13-year prison term for leaking information to British intelligence.