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Salisbury attack - as it happened: Second novichok suspect Dr Alexander Mishkin was 'awarded hero of the Russian Federation'

Bellingcat investigators say Mishkin was photographed 'shaking Vladimir Putin's hand'

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 09 October 2018 10:48
Second suspect identified in Sergei Skripal poisoning

The second Russian man accused of launching the Salisbury novichok attack was also a decorated "hero of the Russian Federation", investigators have said.

Experts from the website Bellingcat said a photograph showed the man shaking hands with Vladimir Putin as he received the country's highest award.

They have named the alleged assassin who arrived in the UK under the alias Alexander Petrov as Dr Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin, who was employed by Russia's GRU intelligence agency.

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The 39-year-old graduated from one of Russia's elite Military Medical Academies, the group's website said.

During his studies he was recruited by the GRU and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity - including a second national ID and travel passport - under the alias Alexander Petrov, it added.

Bellingcat has already identified the assassin who arrived in Britain under the name Ruslan Boshirov as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga - a highly decorated officer who also worked for the GRU.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We are not commenting as this is still a police investigation.”

The men are believed to have smeared novichok on Sergei Skripal's front door on 4 March and returned to Moscow hours later.

The attack left Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia critically ill, while Dawn Sturgess, 44, was later accidentally exposed to the same nerve agent and died in July.

Theresa May said their actions were not a “rogue operation” and would have been approved at a senior level in Moscow.

The activities of the GRU have come under further scrutiny after the agency was accused of trying to hack the global chemical weapons watchdog as it worked to identify the substance used.

Officials in the Netherlands, where the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is based, said four Russians had been expelled after the alleged cyber strike.

British intelligence helped thwart the operation which was launched in April, a month after the poisoning.

The GRU has also been blamed for a string of cyber attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said a number of hackers known to have launched attacks have been linked to the GRU.

The NCSC associated four new attacks with the GRU, on top of previous strikes believed to have been conducted by Russian intelligence.

Among targets of the GRU attacks were the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), transport systems in Ukraine, and democratic elections, such as the 2016 US presidential race, according to the NCSC.

The centre said it was “almost certainly” the GRU behind a “BadRabbit” attack in October 2017 that caused disruption to the Kiev metro, Odessa airport and Russia's central bank.

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Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the latest revelations on the men accused of poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter with novichok in Salisbury.

The investigative website Bellingcat has named the alleged assassin who arrived in Britain with a passport in the name of Alexander Petrov as Russian military doctor Dr Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 10:41
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Bellingcat released preliminary details of its investigation overnight, after unmasking the first suspect as Anatoliy Chepiga, a military colonel who had been the recipient of Russia’s highest state award.

Its investigators will be in Parliament later today to give more details of the probe and release the second part of the investigation. They are being hosted by Conservative MP Bob Seely, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee and formerly worked as a journalist in the Soviet Union and served as a soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 10:46
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We will be live blogging from inside the event from when it starts at 12.15pm

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 10:46
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Delegates and MPs are gathering and the event will start shortly. Bob Seely MP will introduce Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, and one of its investigators Christo Grozev to go through the evidence

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 12:13
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Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 12:14
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Mr Seely is opening the event. He says Bellingcat are a "truly remarkable group of digital detectives".

Mr Seely, who used to work as a journalist in the former Soviet Union, says he is here to give some wider context. He says smartphones and the internet are "revolutionising" investigative work, and the rise of online activism.

But he warns of a "counter-revolution" by governments trying to use big data and other information to control the civilian population

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 12:19
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Mr Seely says Bellingcat and other online detectives use both open source material and "old-fashioned detective work" to build evidence and track people.

He says a lot of techniques that were done by military experts and intelligence agencies a decade ago can now be used by online activists. The International Criminal Court itself is now using social media evidence, he says.

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 12:21
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In August, Libyan fighters were charged based on social media showing them carrying out executions, Mr Seely says.

"This stuff is changing our world"

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 12:22
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Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, is now speaking. He says their initial Skripal investigation started when the Metropolitan Police released the aliases of two men accused of carrying out the novichok attack in Salisbury

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 12:24
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Bellingcat have accessed address details of the two men charged with carrying out the attack and their passport records, which led to the conclusion that they were GRU members and the discovery of their real names.

The man using the name  Ruslan Boshirov was first identified as GRU’s Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, recipient of Russia’s highest state award the 'hero of Russia'. His real name was still listed on a monument.

Lizzie Dearden9 October 2018 12:26

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