Journalists found out that the suspect in the Skripal poisoning case is a distinguished Russian intelligence officer
Version one: “For Crimea”
Following revelations made by The Insider and Bellingcat on the “Salisbury tourists”, Ruslan Boshirov – one of the suspects in the assassination attempt of ex GRU colonel Sergei Skripal – was in fact Anatoliy Chepiga, a colonel in the GRU (Russia’s military intelligence service). Novaya Gazeta has located three ex-servicemen who had served in the early 2000s in the 282nd special forces detachment deployed in Matveyevka, a suburb of Khabarovsk in northern Russia. Colonel Chepiga reported for duty with this unit in August 2001. Novaya Gazeta’s sources, speaking on conditions of anonymity, have told the newspaper that:
- “Boshirov, who was interviewed by Margarita Simonyan on the Russia Today (RT) TV channel, was in fact Anatoliy Chepiga. His appearance has changed, but Boshirov’s voice is Tolya’s [Anatoliy’s] voice,” said one of Chepiga’s three former colleagues. The other two were unsure whether or not Boshirov and Chepiga are indeed one and the same person. However, they have not seen Chepiga since 2006 and admit that his appearance could have changed.
- “Chepiga had a relative who was a big shot in the administration of Khabarovsk Krai. He canvassed for Anatoliy to be sent to Khabarovsk. Chepiga was considered to have friends in high places; even the detachment commander addressed him in a particularly polite manner.”
- “Chepiga was awarded the title of Hero of Russia ‘for Crimea’. It was conferred on him in a secret presidential decree – precisely for his actions in Crimea. Frankly, I have no clue what exactly he was doing in Crimea. He was one of the ‘nerds’ – an excellent student at school, but a very mediocre officer in the field.”
Version two: “For Yanukovych”
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian online television channel Hromadske.tv suggested a different scenario in which Chepiga received the Hero of Russia honour for conducting the extraction of former President Victor Yanukovych from Ukraine to Russia. Yanukovych fled Ukraine after Euromaidan, a massive and lengthy protest in the centre of Kiev which ended in bloodshed.
“Chepiga-Boshirov took part in Yanukovych’s evacuation to Russia. That’s what my sources have indicated. He arrived at Yanukovych’s residence – the Mezhigorye – with a special forces unit. He [Chepiqa-Boshirov] was there, protecting him [Yanukovych]. They took him to Crimea,” Sergey Kanev, a journalist at the Centre for Investigation Management (who was involved in the Insider and Bellingcat investigations), told Hromadske.
Kanev, who recently left Russia after a tip-off regarding a “provocation” being arranged against him, has also commented on his version for Novaya Gazeta. He said that his source was a GRU employee with thirty years’ experience who was “in need of money”.
“They are very jealous there of things such as who was awarded with a title of “Hero” and for what. Therefore, the story went like this: Boshirov was given the title “for Yanukovych”. That’s what it was all about. For them, honours are a sore point,” Kanev said in an interview with Novaya Gazeta.
Hromadske.tv has approached those participating in the trial against Yanukovych (the former president of Ukraine is being tried in absentia) for confirmation of Kanev’s assertions, but so far without results.