Suspect accused of poisoning Russian spy was once honored by Putin

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One of the trained assassins wanted for poisoning Sergei Skripal is a decorated colonel in Russian military intelligence given the country's highest award by Vladimir Putin.

The unmasking of Boshirov as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga opens a trail right to the top of the Kremlin, given that President Putin awarded the GRU officer Russia's top military honour in 2014.

Bellingcat claimed the colonel's passport name was Ruslan Boshirov, one of the two suspects charged by British prosecutors with attempted murder for the Novichok poisoning of the Skripals in the southern English city of Salisbury in March. In use since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the honour is issued personally by the president "as recognition of services to the state and the people of Russian Federation involving a heroic deed", the group says.

Bellingcat has released a detailed biography of Chepiga, and claim he has received over 20 awards for his service to Russian Federation over the course of his military career.

Earlier this month, Britain accused Russia of "lies and blatant fabrications" after the suspects appeared on Russian television to insist they were visiting Salisbury for its cathedral.

Bellingcat obtained extracts from the passport file of Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga.

The investigative group said it researched pictures of graduates of Russian military academies and found a man resembling Boshirov in a group photo.

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In this grab taken from CCTV and issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on Wednesday September 5, 2018, Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov walk on Fisherton Road, Salisbury, England on March 4, 2018.

It has now emerged that he fought for a feared special forces Spetsnaz unit - which is under the command of the GRU - for 17 years, and worked for at least nine.

Bellingcat said the name was a "fake cover persona" for an as yet unidentified Russian individual.

The man named as Ruslan Boshirov (left) is said by The Bellingcat group to be Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.

It is not clear why he received the award.

The passport file contained a photograph - dated approximately in 2003, when this passport was obtained - that strongly resembled a younger "Boshirov" as seen in passport photos released by the United Kingdom police. The U.K.'s Metropolitan Police in a statement said they were "not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities".

In June, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.

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