The Latest: UK warns Russia about using chemical weapons
MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the nerve agent poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain (all times local):
Britain’s foreign secretary says he has warned Russia it will pay a “high price” if it continues to use chemical weapons like the nerve agent used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
Jeremy Hunt said Thursday he had a “frank” discussion with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when they met during the UN General Assembly meetings in New York.
“It was pretty tough because it is not acceptable for Russia to instruct two GRU agents to use chemical weapons on British soil,” he told Sky News, referring to Russia’s military intelligence agency.
Britain has declined to comment on a report Wednesday from the Bellingcat investigative group that identified one of the two suspects in the case as a highly-decorated Russian colonel, but officials had previously called the two men GRU officers.
Hunt said he believed the Russians had made the assassination attempt because they felt they had “got away” with the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, another former Russian agent, in London in 2005.
The founder of the Bellingcat investigative group says a source led its researchers to track down a photo of Col. Anatoly Chepiga, the man the group identified as one of two suspects in the nerve agent poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in Britain.
Eliot Higgins said the resemblance between the ID photo they found of Chepiga and photos of Ruslan Boshirov was striking to people with expertise in the field.
In its online report, Bellingcat says one of its sources suggested checking out the Far Eastern Military Command Academy, one of Russia’s leading schools for training in foreign languages and clandestine operations. This helped Bellingcat eventually find a photo of Chepiga.
“If it had been the wrong person we would have known,” Higgins said. “The ear shape is quite distinctive, as in the general shape of nose, face and eyebrows. I’ve done a lot of facial recognition and there are a lot of little things.”
He said his group hopes to reveal the real name of the second suspect “soon.”
Russia’s respected Kommersant daily has interviewed residents in a small village in the Far East who have identified one of the suspects in the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain as a senior Russian intelligence agent.
On Wednesday, an investigative group in Britain named Bellingcat said one of the two suspects in the March poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. is in fact Col. Anatoliy Chepiga with the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, who in 2014 was awarded Russia’s highest medal.
Kommersant on Thursday interviewed several residents of the village where Chepiga’s family used to live as saying that Chepiga is the man identified by the British as one of the poisoning suspects.
Russian officials have denied any role in the poisoning in the English city of Salisbury.