By Phillipa Anamaoh
Russia seems to be lost for words after military doctor Alexander Mishkin was identified and exposed as the second Novichok spy who aided the Russian intelligence agency in carrying out an attempted assassination in London last March.
Several requests for comment from British publications have been ignored, and gentle persuasion for some explanation from the Kremlin or an apology for dismissing Britain’s allegations have produced no comment by the usually very defensive administration.
Investigative website ‘Bellingcat’ revealed how 39 year old Mishkin helped GRU colonel carry out Salisbury attack. He smeared the Novichok nerve agent on former Russian double-agent Sergei Skirpal’s front door. The finger of blame was immediately pointed to Russia for the attack, but as usual, the Kremlin denied any knowledge of the attack or the men accused. British authorities were convinced of Russia’s guilt enough to call for tough action against the Kremlin in the way of international sanctions and any other methods possible.
However, Russia continued to deny involvement in the attack and rebuked Britain for blaming them without evidence. The pair of callous brutes went as far as protesting their innocence together on Russian television, each claiming to have been in Salisbury on a holiday trip. The pictures released by British police placing both Russian suspects so close to the scene of the attack were brushed off by the criminal pair who said they feared for their lives and that of their families. They claimed to be victims of a false propaganda, but to the excellent investigation of Bellingcat website, they have been completely exposed.
Russia’s decline for comment ever since the findings of Bellingcat’s investigation has been made public is both revealing and suspect. They are suddenly silent because they are out rightly lost for words. There can be no words of defense in the face of evidence. Russia’s best defense can only be that the Novichok assassins acted on their own without any approval from government, but they are saying nothing. Still in shock Russian investigators were reportedly crossed with its intelligence services, referring to them as ”deeply incompetent”, following the high profile blunders.
Bellingcat used a combination of online material and leaked documents to identify Alexander Mishkin, 39, as a person linked to the attack in March.
It said President Vladimir Putin had presented him with the Hero of the Russian Federation award in 2014.
The attack was carried out back on March 4th 2018. Skirpal, 66 and his daughter Yulia 33 were found unconscious on a park bench in a Salisbury Shopping Center precinct. They had spent the whole day together. The GRU operative had passed secrets to both MI 6 and his daughter Yulia. An eyewitness claimed that she saw Yulia foaming at the mouth with her eyes wide open yet completely white.
Three victims of Novichok were admitted to hospital including the Skirpals and a police officer, all of whom were subsequently discharged. However on June 30th a woman named Dawn Sturgess from Amesbury fell pray to the Novichok agent. She had been given a perfume bottle containing the poison by her partner Charlie Rowley, 45. Within 8 minutes of spraying the perfume on her wrist, Sturgess fell ill. She later died in hospital on July 8th. Her partner was left in critical condition. Although this was not a targeted attack, British police suspected that this was a result of one of the ways the Russian agents disposed of the poison.
The UK government immediately suspected Russia in attempted murder. The initial assessment of the incident 153 Russian diplomats were expelled in late March. Russia however rejected all accusations and blamed Britain for the poisoning.
On September 5th British authorities identified two Russian nationals, who later, in a Russian television interview claimed to be businessman touring the city. However the interview was highly criticized and ridiculed by the media who noticed inconsistencies in their reports. The pair claimed to have planned a holiday long in advance whereas their flights were actually booked “at the last minute”. Furthermore, their passports had been described as having false covers. They had markings indicating military or other undercover or secret service use.
Both suspects were using pseudonyms and fake identities during their time in Britain. The senior member of the ‘two-man team’ had was identified two weeks ago as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga a.k.a Ruslan Boshirov, 39.He was a highly adorned GRU officer bestowed with Russia’s highest state award. He was the hero of the Russian Federation by Vladmir Putin back in 2014.
The newly revealed second member Mishkin, had received his undercover identity as “Alexander Petrov” back in 2010 where he had relocated to Moscow. Prior to his arrival in the UK he had graduated from an elite military medical academy in Russia. He then trained as a doctor for the Russian navy where afterwards he was recruited by the GRU. Since 2011 he is suspected to have traveled extensively under this identity.
DOCTOR OF DEATH
The doctor of death’s accomplice within the Salisbury poisoning saga make perfect sense. A medical expert would need to be on hand when dealing with toxic nerve agents, in case of contamination or spillage. It would be no surprise if Mishkin had an antidote on his person whilst carrying out his mission. CCTV camera footage captured him and Chipega confidently laughing to them a few moments after the attack. It is easy to see how the two agents’ failed murder attempt can make them subjects of ridicule.
However Bob Seely, a Conservative member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, who has a long-standing interest in Russia, said:
“Whilst this operation has been a botched embarrassment for the Kremlin, it’s worth remembering that we may not know about the GRU’s successful operations and therefore shouldn’t judge the GRU by their failures. It is yet more evidence that the UK needs to develop a long-term plan to expose Russian subversion.”
The likely pairing of a deadly doctor and a highly trained gunman is indeed a threatening one. Mishkin knew the exact effects of the nerve agent and would have aware of its potential damage upon other innocent victims. He played the ‘innocent tourist’ both in Salisbury and on national television. However, he would not by any means have thought twice upon seriously harming innocent tourists. Now that Mishkin has been exposed as a guilty assassin, Russia should be expected to punish him seriously for his very evil and calculated crime.
The Russian government can only do that if they really had no knowledge of Mishkin’s deadly plans, and did not approve of it in any shape or form.