Unmasking of 2nd Alleged Skripal Poisoner May Prompt Kremlin Purge of GRU

Posted October 10, 2018

The Bellingcat investigative website on Monday said the second suspect responsible for poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal is Dr Alexander Mishkin, a military doctor working for Russian intelligence agency GRU. Amy Kellogg has the story.

He was recruited by GRU during his studies at one of Russia's military medical academies, and between 2011 and 2018 he traveled repeatedly under the identity of Alexander Petrov, including to Ukraine and Moldova's breakaway territory of Transdniestria.

British authorities allege that the two Russians smeared a Soviet-designed nerve agent called Novichok on the front door of Skripal's home in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, the day the former spy and his daughter were found incapacitated on a bench and rushed to the hospital.

It worked with the Russian investigative team at The Insider to name the first of the two Skripal suspects as GRU agent Anatoly Chepiga last month. After the two men were identified as suspects in the attack by British police, Putin said they were "civilians" and that there "was nothing criminal" involving them.

The website said it discovered Mishkin's real identity after obtaining a scanned copy of his passport.

He had climbed the ranks of the GRU after graduating from the a military medical academy no later than 2001, and relocated to Moscow at some point between 2007 and 2010.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin officials have dismissed allegations about GRU operatives mounting the murder attempt on Skripal, and they also reject claims of the Russian intelligence services carrying out other so-called active measures in Europe and elsewhere as "fantasies".

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Officials with the New York Attorney General's Office and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office declined to comment. That would have amounted to a 55-percent tax on gifts, or $8 million, according to the report.

The group says it will provide forensic evidence and further information about how it identified Dr Mishkin on Tuesday (local time).

Bellingcat did not elaborate on its "investigation methods", adding that it would publish a separate report on the matter.

Last week, authorities in the Netherlands alleged that the GRU had tried and failed to hack the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. But the nerve agent killed a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, and seriously sickened her partner. The two men had previously claimed to be Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, sports nutritionists with a passion for gothic-style cathedrals.

The man is believed to have traveled to Ukraine on multiple occasions, including during the Maidan events in December 2013, also under the alias of Alexander Petrov, used during his Salisbury mission.

The US Justice Department also charged seven GRU officers in an alleged worldwide hacking rampage that targeted more than 250 athletes, a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company, a Swiss chemical laboratory and the chemical weapons watchdog.

Until early September 2014, Mishkin's registered home address in Moscow was Khoroshevskoe Shosse 76B - the address of the headquarters of the GRU.

"It is easy to laugh at some of the GRU's poor tradecraft and their abilities, but we should not underestimate them nor indeed the risky and reckless use of nerve agent on our streets", he said.

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