We have already learned a great deal through extraordinary detective work leading to the precise identification of the two Russian military intelligence officers – Grushniki – who attempted and botched the assassination of Skrypal’, who betrayed his own service some years ago on behalf of MI6 (“Tretii otravitel’ iz Solsberi – GRUshnik Denis Sergeev. Kto on i s kakimi eshche prestupleniyami svyazan”, The Insider @the_ins-ru, 14 February 2018)
Now we are told by Insider, an investigative team operating out of Russia, and bellingcat.com, the team operating out of Britain, that there were not just two but three officers involved in this failed enterprise.
Born in Usharal, Kazakhstan, on 17 September 1973, Denis Sergeev, joined the Russian armed forces and passed through the military diplomatic academy before setting himself up in Moscow as an employee of eight companies and on that basis received $1 million credit from a Russian bank in 2009 without any assets to his name. A year later he received a cover name – Sergei Vyacheslavovich Fedotov and with it a passport similar to the two men who attempted to kill Skripal’.
He is reported to have visited Bulgaria on 24 April 2015 and four days later returned to Russia via Istanbul, leaving behind him a Bulgarian arms trader, Emel’yan Gebrev, hospitalised after receiving a poison that the doctors failed to identify. On 2 March 2018 he flew into London before the other two Grushniki destined to assassinate Skripal’ had arrived. He was due to leave for Moscow by plane on 4 March, the day of the murder attempt, but did not appear on the flight which had been booked in his name. Instead he returned to Moscow via Rome that afternoon.
The ingenuity of the research does suggest either the collaboration of one (or more) Western intelligence service(s) or even a tip off from another Russian intelligence service, perhaps not entirely displeased at the embarrassment of a rival agency as a result of the Skripal’ screw up. Who knows? We will never be told. But we have certainly not yet heard the end of the story.