Russian military doctor named as second suspect in Salisbury poisoning of Sergei Skripal

The second suspect in the poisoning case of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury has been named as Dr Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a doctor in Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.

This comes from the Bellingcat investigative website, who named the first suspect as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, also of the GRU, last week. British police accuse both men of attempting to assassinate the former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia, with a novichok nerve agent in March.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the attack was “almost certainly” approved at a senior level of the Kremlin, but hasn’t directly accussed Vladimir Putin, perhaps worried about the effects of such an accusation, since British-Russian relations are at a post Cold war low.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the attack, and have also dismissed reports that Chepiga, the first suspect, was linked to the GRU. However, Putin has gone on record as calling Skripal a ‘scumbag’.

The Ukranian Vice Prime Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze has sympathised with the British government:

“We have been clearly standing on the line of this attack, of Russian federation against the western world and we have been holding this attack by our efforts on our territory.

“By a very painful experience of our people, having lost more than 10,000 people from this aggression, we have been trying to tell the rest of the world that the threat is imminent and it’s spreading much wider.

“We are sorry to learn that the painful experience has found its way to Britain, this is yet another confirmation of the formats of Russian aggravation against other countries, it’s taking different ways and that’s what’s happened in Salisbury.”

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Hilary Clinton has spoken about how she believes that democracy is “under siege” because of alleged Russian interference in elections.

“I don’t understand why the press, the political establishment and the public are so reluctant to call out what the Russians have been doing.

“What they did in Brexit, what they did in the United States.”

“Democracy is under siege, international cooperation is being diminished and dismissed, and we have to ask ourselves, how do we maintain the democratic experiment in self government and how do we find the cooperation around the world and stand against this tide that seems to be sweeping Europe and the United States that is really undermining the extraordinary work that was done.”

Who are Bellingcat

Bellingcat call themselves the “home of online investigations”, and have a site that goes from identifying the Russian poisoning suspects, to articles giving information on how to identify burnt villages using satellite imagery. They claim to use “open source and social media investigation to investigate a variety of subjects”.

The site was founded by Eliot Higgins, who helped to investigate the Syrian Civil War, the 2014-15 Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

Higgins and Bellingcat won the Hanns Joachim Friedrichs Award for excellence in journalism in 2015, and are a member of the independent press regulator IMPRESS. That means they are required to uphold a standards code, and allow readers to complain directly to the body, should they disagree with an article.

Bellingcat are widely regarded as a trusted source, but care must be taken. Although they name all contributors and staff on their site, some profiles lack information. Some miss pictures of writers, leading a belief that pseudonyms are used (Higgins himself set up the site under the name ‘Brown Moses’). Others have very little detail on contributors experience.

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