Skripal Suspect Real Identity Revealed As Russian Colonel, Says Investigative Group

An online investigations group has published what it says is the real identity of one of the prime suspects in the Salisbury nerve agent...

Ruslan Boshirov during an interview to the RT news channel (Picture: PA).

An online investigations group has published what it says is the real identity of one of the prime suspects in the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The Bellingcat group has reported that the man who was named as Ruslan Boshirov is actually Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, who they say is a highly decorated officer in the GRU, Russia's military intelligence service.

The Home Office said it could neither confirm nor deny the report about the suspect's real identity.

Scotland Yard, which has already said it believed the two suspects were using aliases, declined to comment.

Theresa May has told the UN Security Council she'll continue taking steps to keep the UK safe following the attack.

Earlier this month, Britain accused Russia of "lies and blatant fabrications" after the prime suspects in the Novichok attack claimed they visited the UK as tourists.

Ruslan Boshirov (left) and Alexander Petrov speak to Russian state TV
The men who said their names were Ruslan Boshirov (left) and Alexander Petrov (right) told Russian state-funded news channel RT they travelled to the "wonderful" city in Wiltshire after recommendations from friends.

The pair claimed they have been left fearing for their lives after Britain pointed to their involvement and said they were officers in Russian military intelligence service the GRU.

Downing Street called the content of the interview "deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack".

Russia's President Vladimir Putin said the men had been discounted as members of his security network, and insisted they were civilians.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson briefly appeared to confirm the story, posting and then deleting a tweet that said:

"The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian Colonel. I want to thank all the people who are working so tirelessly on this case."

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Mr Williamson's social media profile was personal and it did not know why the tweet was deleted. Scotland Yard declined to comment.

UK authorities believe the pair smeared the highly toxic chemical Novichok on a door handle at the Wiltshire home of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal, leaving Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia critically ill on 4 March.

On June 30, in nearby Amesbury, Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.

A police officer who visited the home of the Skripals shortly after the attack, Nick Bailey, was also left critically ill from exposure to the substance.