Salisbury novichok attack: Bulgaria to investigate third suspect in Skripal nerve agent poisoning
45-year-old Russian agent linked to British and Bulgarian poisonings
Bulgarian officials have revealed they will investigate reports about a third suspect in last year’s poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Salisbury.
The 45-year-old man was identified as a Russian agent using the alias “Sergei Vyacheslavovich Fedotov” earlier this week in a joint Bellingcat/Insider investigation, and was allegedly involved in a 2015 poisoning in Bulgaria.
Tsvetan Tsvetanov of Bulgaria’s ruling GERB party told the bTV channel that the country’s intelligence services will soon present evidence related to nerve agent poisonings before the parliamentary committee on homeland security.
Mr Tsvetanov, a former Bulgarian interior minister, said the new probe was being coordinated with the UK and other foreign partners.
“I am certain that the necessary coordination has already been set up between the Bulgarian, British and European authorities on the case and they are working actively on it,” he said.
British officials have blamed the Salisbury attack on the GRU, and charged two Russian suspects who travelled under the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
Both men, and the Russian authorities, deny involvement in the poisoning, and Moscow refuses to extradite them to Britain.
On Thursday, Bellingcat said on its website that the 45-year-old agent known as Sergei Vyacheslavovich Fedotov had been “conclusively identified as an agent of Russian military intelligence”, or GRU.
The alleged agent arrived in Bulgaria in April 2015, just a few days before Bulgarian businessman Emilian Gebrev was poisoned by an unidentified substance.
Mr Gebrev, a key executive in the country’s arms industry, survived the attack, but authorities still do not know who poisoned him.
Doctors treating the arms manufacturer concluded his symptoms were consistent with poisoning “in the days or days before April 28”.
Bellingcat also claimed the alleged agent arrived in London on a flight from Moscow on the same days as the GRU officers already identified by British officials.
The same internet research team first identified the suspected agents using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov as Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga last autumn.
Mr Skripal and his daughter survived last year’s attack but spent weeks in the hospital and are now at an undisclosed location for their own safety. The Salisbury poisonings set off a wave of recriminations between Britain and Moscow, prompting dozens of envoys to be expelled.
Additional reporting by agencies