Second suspect in Skripal poisoning identified: Research group

The poison used, according to British authorities, was novichok, an especially risky nerve agent, and, analysts say, it was nearly certainly Mishkin's role to apply the poison, which is thought to have been smeared on the handle of Skripal's front-door.

The full report, presented by two Bellingcat reporters at Westminster on Tuesday, explained how they had pieced together evidence of the man's identity from scraps of information on the internet, via leaked official databases and using a copy of personal documents, including passport dossiers.

"At least 5 different residents told our reporter that Alexander Mishkin, who they knew worked in Murmansk or in Moscow "as a military doctor", had received the Hero of Russian Federation several years ago", the report said.

"While Alexander Mishkin's true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoliy Chepiga's, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background", Bellingcat said.

Travelling under his assumed name of Petrov, Mishkin went to Ukraine and other former Soviet states between 2011 and 2013, Bellingcat said.

Investigative group Bellingcat on Monday identified the second suspect in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal as a doctor employed by Moscow's GRU military intelligence service. While recent failings by the GRU had made it easy to mock the spy agency, he said, it would be foolish not to take them seriously. Skripal and his daughter Yulia narrowly survived the attack, but a local woman, Dawn Sturgess later died after being accidentally exposed to the chemical weapon.

Bellingcat said that Mishkin graduated from a military medical academy in St. Petersburg between 2003 and 2004, where he trained as doctor in the naval armed forces.

For his cover identity he used most of his own details, including his date of birth and first name, and the first names of his parents.

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Skripal, a Russian military intelligence officer turned double agent for Britain, and his visiting daughter spent weeks in critical condition after the Salisbury attack.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, refused to comment on the Bellingcat report.

"We shouldn't also forget that there was a enormous effort made by our police and MI5 to spot them in the first place, track their movements and also the huge effort that went in to develop the intelligence that helped guide us to the door of the GRU itself".

Higgins noted that Mishkin's home village is snowbound for much of the year.

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

One of the Bellingcat team who ID'd the two GRU agents points out that the inclusion of a doctor on a 2-man team makes it harder to claim these guys were doing something other than handling a deadly nerve agent.

Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has dismissed the allegations, saying the men who were expelled from Holland had been there on a "routine" assignment to provide cybersecurity support for Russia's embassy.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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