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MOSCOW-An investigative group in Britain says it has identified one of the two suspects in the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in the U.K.as a highly-decorated colonel in the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

It also supports the British claim that Colonel Chepiga and Petrov, whose real name remains unknown, were acting on orders from the top when they allegedly smeared the nerve agent novichok on Sergei...

British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin's government for the attack.

They then obtained extracts from the passport file of Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga which contained a photograph that strongly resembled a younger "Boshirov", the report said.

Col Chepiga was given the Kremlin's highest state award, Hero of the Russian Federation, in secret in 2014 - an accolade usually given by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"Russia has only sought to obfuscate through desperate fabrication", she said.

The colonel was in 2014 awarded Russia's highest medal, the Hero of Russian Federation.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson appeared to confirm the Bellingcat findings in a tweet but later deleted the message, which said: 'The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian colonel'.

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Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the Bellingcat report, saying it was timed to coincide with British Prime Minister Theresa May's address at the UN Security Council.

Other details have been filled in from an entry on a Russian veterans' website which says Chepiga was born in Nikolayevka, near the Chinese border, in 1979. This award is bestowed personally by the President of Russian Federation "as recognition of services to the state and the people of Russian Federation involving a heroic deed".

The two Russian men have appeared on the state-funded RT channel, saying they visited Salisbury as tourists and had nothing to do with the Skripal poisoning.

Bellingcat's latest revelation came after scouring the records of specialist military schools that would provide the training necessary for the covert work the two suspects engaged in.

They are also wanted for the attempted murder of Col Skripal and his daughter Julia.

It was thought he travelled to the United Kingdom on a false passport, under a pseudonym, with another Russian national who used the name Alexander Petrov.

The 39-year-old GRU military intelligence service colonel is a married father-of-one.

The prime minister said Russia had "flagrantly breach [ing] global norms" and condemned "the reckless use of chemical weapons on the streets of Britain by agents of the Russian GRU".


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