Putin honoured Russian 'doctor of death' linked to Skripal poisoning

Bellingcat shared additional images of the doctor

The men identified as Petrov and Boshirov are believed to have smeared the highly toxic Novichok nerve agent on a door handle at the Wiltshire home of Mr Skripal on March 4. Amy Kellogg has the story.

One of the two suspects in the poisoning of an ex-spy in England is a doctor who works for Russian military intelligence and travelled to Britain under an alias, investigative group Bellingcat reported Monday.

"At least 5 different residents told our reporter that Alexander Mishkin, who they knew worked in Murmansk or in Moscow "as a military doctor", had received the Hero of Russian Federation several years ago", the report said.

Prior to the attempted assassination of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury in March, he was said to have taken part in numerous undercover operations in Ukraine and Transnistria.

The other assassin, named Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga, was last month unmasked by Bellingcat as a decorated GRU colonel awarded a medal of honour by Putin for his service in Chechnya and Ukraine.

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

Bellingcat says it "conclusively identified" Mishkin from "multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents", including his passport.

The GRU has come under the spotlight after its agents was accused of trying to hack the global chemical weapons watchdog investigating the Salisbury attack.

Bellingcat's report said Mishkin moved to an "upscale" GRU-issued apartment in Moscow after he and Chepiga received their awards.

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The Skripals survived after a lengthy hospital stay in intensive care.

A woman later died from Novichok poisoning after her partner found a counterfeit perfume bottle which police believe had been used to smuggle the nerve agent into Britain.

According to Bellingcat, Mishkin was born in July 1979 in the village of Loyga in northern Russian Federation.

Mishkin had travelled to the United Kingdom under the name of Alexander Petrov.

He had climbed the ranks of the GRU after graduating from the a military medical academy no later than 2001, and relocated to Moscow at some point between 2007 and 2010. Nor has the Kremlin been helped by other GRU agents in recent Russian espionage operations in Europe, who appeared also weak on the basics of traditional spycraft.

But Mishkin's cover identity had retained key details from his real identity, including his date of birth, as well as his first name and patronymic - a middle name based on a person's father's name, a practice that is common among Russians. For several years he used, inexplicably say analysts, the address of the GRU headquarters as his home address.

Bellingcat said they had cracked the puzzle of the man's identity partly through a mistake by the GRU, which did not change the first name or birthdate of the agents when it gave them fake identities.

Last week, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against seven members of the GRU, accusing them of hacking into the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as well as four worldwide sports governing bodies.

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