Online investigative website Bellingcat says it has unearthed the ‘real identity’ of the second man in the photo released by Britain’s metropolitan police as the suspects responsible for the nerve agent poisoning in the town of Salisbury.
According to Bellingcat, the man who identified himself as Alexander Petrov in an interview with RT Television channel, is in reality Alexander Mishkin, aged 39 years.
At a news conference held in the Houses of Parliament in London, Bellingcat investigator Cristo Grozev said Mishkin was a medical officer and a member of Russia’s foreign military intelligence agency GRU. He had been given the celebrated award for "actions in Ukraine" by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
He said Dr Mishkin's grandmother has a photograph that has "been seen by everybody in the village" of President Putin shaking his hand and giving him the award.
Outlining how it identified the Salisbury suspect as Dr Mishkin, Bellingcat said it had pieced together his identity using various databases online, including telephone and car insurance records, and later obtained copies of his passport and driving licence. Bellingcat pointed out that Mishkin's real passport and the false passport he traveled to the UK on in the name of Alexander Petrov carried the same date of birth.
Bellingcat said Dr Mishkin completed his medical studies at a faculty which trains doctors for Russia's naval armed forces and around the same period was recruited by the GRU.
The website report said he made several trips to Ukraine, including during the 2013-14 unrest.
Bellingcat released its report on Mishkin after it unveiled the identity of the other man accused by Britain for the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Like Mishkin, the first suspect Anatoliy Chepiga, too is a military officer with GRU and has been awarded by President Putin.
Bellingcat’s report undermines Russia's official account that the two men are civilians who came to Salisbury as tourists to see the town’s famed cathedral spire.