Russian officials and pro-Kremlin media have pushed back against the results of an online investigation identifying a suspect in the Salisbury novichok poisoning as a Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer.
Investigative journalists from Bellingcat and the Insider had on Wednesday identified one of the suspects as Col Anatoliy Chepiga, a special forces veteran who travelled to Salisbury under the cover name Ruslan Boshirov. British investigators also believe one of the two men accused of poisoning ex-spy Sergei Skripal is Chepiga, the Guardian understands.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, called the story a fabrication. “There are no proof,” she wrote in an online post, “so they continue this information campaign, the main goal of which is to distract attention from the main question: WHAT HAPPENED IN SALISBURY?”
Journalists from the two outlets shot back that they were trying to find that out.
“I read Maria Zakharova’s response, where she writes that our investigation into Salisbury is a fabrication, aiming to distract attention from what happened in Salisbury,” wrote Roman Dobrokhotov, the editor of the Insider, with sarcasm. “I thought [about that one] for a while.”
A British court has charged Boshirov and another man, identified publicly as Alexander Petrov, with attempting to murder Skripal by spraying the nerve agent novichok on his door handle at home in Salisbury. Skripal, his daughter, and a police officer were admitted to hospital. Scotland Yard has said it believes that Petrov is an alias and that it knows the man’s true name.