Russians accused of poisoning agent Skripal were secretly in the Czech Republic
The sources of Czech Radio Radiožurnál are convinced that Skripal was being followed by the two Russian men.
„It looks as though the Russians set up a task force and followed Skripal long before the attempted murder,“ says a source from the intelligence service.
Česky: Dvojitého agenta Skripala v Česku tajně sledovali stejní lidé, které Britové podezírají z jeho otravy
One of the men is Alexander Miskin, described by Bellingcat, a server on investigative journalism, as a doctor in the services of Russian military intelligence GRU. This man was formerly known as Alexander Petrov. He arrived as Petrov in Czech Republic in mid-October 2014. More precisely between October 13 and 16 he found accommodation in a hotel in Ostrava before relocating to Prague.
The second man operated under the name Ruslan Boshirov. His real name per British media is Anatoliy Chepiga and he is an officer of GRU. He visited Prague on October 11, 2014.
Their visit was later a subject of interest not only of Czech intelligence service, but also the National Center for Combatting Organized Crime (NCOZ). Because there is case investigation throughout Europe, nobody wants to comment.
„The SIS will not comment on this information,“ said Ladislav Šticha, spokesman for the Security Information Service (SIS).
„Our department will not be providing any information,“ said Jaroslav Ibehej, spokesman for the National Center for Combatting Organized Crime (NCOZ).
The Russians utilized the same fake identity during their stay in Prague as they did during the attempted murder this year in Salisbury.
Skripal came to Czech Republic in the mid-October, not long after the two men who, according to British investigators, allegedly attempted to murder him four years later.
The Russian embassy declined to comment on the entry of Russian GRU secret service officers. An email received from the official address of the embassy in Prague read: „The question of the crossing of the boarder of Czech Republic by citizens of foreign countries falls within the purview of competent authorities of the Czech Republic. We recommend you address your questions to them. Cordially, Embassy of the Russian Federation in Prague.“
Czech Republic has previously expelled some Russian citizens. According to server Neovlivni.cz a total of five diplomats lost their work visa due to „security reasons“ in 2012. Three more lost their visa in 2014.
The expulsion always took place out of the public eye. Whether the information provided by Skripal led to the uncovering of possible spies however remains unclear.
Skripal was poisoned along with his daughter Julia using a military grade poison Novichok in Salisbury in the south of England in March of this year. Both Mishkin and Chepiga admitted during an interview for Russian television station RT in September, that they were in Salisbury at the time of the attempted murder. The claimed however, that they were there as tourists.
British officials are certain that they have enough evidence against the men. Furthermore, the agents of Russia’s military intelligence allegedly operated under direct orders of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Russia however strictly denies that the poisoning was their doing.
„He was just a spy, a traitor to the nation. He was a scoundrel, that’s all.“ Said Putin. „This Skripal is a traitor, as I said. He got caught and was punished (in Russia), he served a five-year jail sentence, then we let him go. That is all. He left, but still cooperated, he consulted some form of secret services. So what?“ the Russian president added.
Skripal operated for years as an agent of Russian military secret service. In the 1990s he also started to work for MI6. For this he was sentenced by Russia in 2006 to 13 years behind bars. In 2010 he became a part of a trade deal and was exchanged by Moscow for agents who were being held in the USA. After this exchange Skripal remained in contact not only with British but also with central European and Baltic secret services.
As BBC journalist Mark Urban wrote, double agent Skripal has in the past handed over to the British intelligence very sensitive information. These include information in the alleged involvement of the former director of the secret service FSB Nicholas Patrushev in large-scale corruption machinations.
Currently, Skripal and his daughter live in an unknown location.