Military intelligence officer Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga implicated in nerve agent poisoning
A number of sites in Amesbury and Salisbury have been cordoned off
A suspect in the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury has been identified as a military intelligence officer who was honoured by Vladimir Putin.
British security sources have confirmed that one of the two Russian men believed to be behind the novichok nerve agent attack in the Wiltshire town is a 39-year-old colonel called Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga.
Earlier this month, the Crown Prosecution Service charged the two suspects with attempted murder under the names Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov.
The veteran officer “served in conflicts in Chechnya and Ukraine and was given Russia’s highest state award – Hero of the Russian Federation – in 2014” by decree of President Putin, Sky News reports.
In interviews with Russian media, Chepiga and his alleged accomplice denied any nefarious motives for their visit to Salisbury in March, claiming they were there as tourists.
However, the unmasking of Chepiga “eliminates any remaining doubts” that they were “Russian officers operating on a clandestine government mission”, says Bellingcat.
The true identity of “Petrov” has yet to be revealed publicly, but The Daily Telegraph reports that it is known to security services and that “he was travelling under his real first name and had only changed his surname to an alias”.
As well as Skripal, the novichok attack almost killed the former double agent’s daughter, Yulia, and police officer Nick Bailey.
Nearly four months later, Amesbury couple Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess fell ill after coming into contact with a perfume bottle that police believe was used to spray novichok on Skripal’s front door. Sturgess, 44, later died from exposure to the deadly substance.