Bellingcat Claims Alleged Salisbury Suspect Bestowed Hero of Russia in 2014
18:21 09.10.2018(updated 18:24 09.10.2018)
LONDON (Sputnik) - UK-based investigative blogger group Bellingcat presented on Tuesday a report claiming that "trained military doctor" Alexander Mishkin, the alleged true identity of Skripal poisoning suspect Alexander Petrov, received the Hero of the Russian Federation Award in 2014.
The group, which has previously issued unfounded materials, presented the report in the UK parliament at the invitation of Bob Seely, a member of the UK House of Commons' international committee.
"In the latter part of 2014, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin bestowed Alexander Mishkin with the Hero of the Russian Federation Award. People closely familiar with Mishkin's family reported to us that they believe Russia's highest award was given for Mishkin's activities 'either in Crimea or in relation to [former Ukrainian president Victor] Yanukovich,'" the group claimed.
Bellingcat admitted, however, that it had "not found any publicly accessible document" to confirm the allegations on Mishkin being the recipient of the award.
According to the group, Mishkin was born on July 13, 1979, in Russia's northwest region of Archangelsk and recruited to work for the security services while studying at a military medical academy. By 2010, he moved to Moscow with "an undercover identity, including a second national ID and travel passport, under the alias Alexander Petrov," the group claimed.
Commenting on the allegations that Mishkin was the real name of Petrov, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to explain any of Bellingcat's claims in the absence of official information from London. The Russian Embassy to the United Kingdom echoed Peskov, saying that it would not comment on the data provided by Bellingcat.
In early September, UK prosecutors charged Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov with the attempted murder of the Skripals and UK police officer Nick Bailey in the UK city of Salisbury in March. UK Prime Minister Theresa May expressed a belief that the suspects worked for the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (formerly known as the GRU), albeit without providing any evidence.
In late September, Bellingcat claimed that it could "definitely confirm" that "both 'Alexander Petrov' and 'Ruslan Boshirov' are active GRU officers." Such an assumption was explained by the fact that their internal passport under the names of Petrov and Boshirov were issued in 2009, while no records allegedly exist for these individuals prior to this year. Later that month, the group in cooperation with The Insider Russia media outlet claimed that they had identified Boshirov as Russian military intelligence colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.
Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov has said that "the Directorate of the Federal Migration Service has no departments that were subordinates of the GRU or someone else." He added that it was impossible to understand whether a person works in the GRU just by looking at the migration service's database. The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has also criticized the materials issued by Bellingcat.
Moscow has repeatedly denied all accusations, saying that the Skripal case was falling apart due to the lack of evidence proving the purported Russian involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry has sent some 60 diplomatic notes to the UK Foreign Office demanding that Russia is given access to the investigation and the Skripals, as well as proposing legal assistance and cooperation, including on the joint inquiry. The UK authorities have not responded to any of these notes.
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