Is there a possible third Salisbury suspect?

Sergei and Yulia Skripal

Published by Faye Tryhorn at 5:37am 8th February 2019. (Updated at 8:35am 8th February 2019)

An investigative website has claimed a 'suspect' flew back to Moscow via a European city a few days after the attack on Sergei Skripal.

Bellingcat said Sergey Fedotov - who the website claims is a Russian military intelligence officer using a false name - was due to travel back to Russia on the same London flight as two other GRU officers who Britain identified as prime suspects in the attempted assassination.

But instead of catching that flight on 4 March last year - the same day former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were targeted with a novichok nerve agent - Fedotov checked himself out of the plane a few minutes prior to take-off, according to Bellingcat:

"He flew back to Moscow from another European capital a few days later."

A report posted on Thursday night (February 7th) was in collaboration with The Insider, a Russian partner website, and a Bulgarian investigative partner outlet called Capital.

Salisbury Spy Investigation Maltings Bench being removed March 2018
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unwell on a bench in the Maltings after having been exposed to novichok

SIMILAR METHOD USED BEFORE?

It was claimed Fedotov's movements were similar to another journey he allegedly took in April 2015 to Bulgaria around the time a Bulgarian defence industry businessman suddenly fell sick.

He was due to fly out of Sofia on 28 April 2015 - the same day Emilian Gebrev was taken to hospital after collapsing at a reception he was hosting in Sofia, according to the piece:

"He did not show up for the return flight. Instead, late on the evening of April 28, he showed up at Istanbul's Ataturk airport and bought a last-minute ticket to a flight to Moscow."

Bellingcat reported that Mr Gebrev subsequently fell into a coma:

"Doctors surmised that the poison had been applied or consumed in the day or days preceding April 28th. However, as they could not identify the poison, they could not be sure of its effects or mode of progression."

Two laboratories with knowledge of nerve agents were allegedly unable to identify the poison conclusively.

But they "discovered traces of two different organophosphates in Mr Gebrev's urine sample: one of which they could identify as a strong pesticide, while the other remained unidentifiable with the standard testing tools for chemical weapons", the report said.

Mr Gebrev's condition improved and he was discharged from hospital a month later.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov Pics September 2018
The same investigative website claims to have discovered the real names of the two previously named suspects in the nerve agent investigation

The British authorities have only ever named two Russian military intelligence officers in the poisoning of the Skripals, using their aliases, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Bellingcat last year revealed their true identities - Colonel Alexander Mishkin and Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.

Both men deny any involvement in the attack and claimed in a Russian television interview that they had been visiting Salisbury as "tourists".

Salisbury Spy Suspects Fisherton Street
The suspects on CCTV in Salisbury on the day of the attack

Bellingcat said a fuller version of its investigation would be published next week.

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