Third Skripal Suspect Linked to Poisoning in Bulgaria in 2015
A possible third Russian suspect linked to the poisoning of a former spy in Salisbury flew back to Moscow via a European city a few days after the attack, an investigative website has claimed.
Bellingcat said Sergey Fedotov - who the website claims is a Russian military intelligence officer using a false name - was due to travel back to Russia on the same London flight as two other GRU officers who Britain identified as prime suspects in the attempted assassination.
But instead of catching that flight on 4 March last year - the same day Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double-agent, and his daughter Yulia were targeted with a novichok nerve agent - Fedotov checked himself out of the plane a few minutes prior to take-off, according to Bellingcat.
"He flew back to Moscow from another European capital a few days later," it said in a report posted on Thursday night in collaboration with The Insider, a Russian partner website, and a Bulgarian investigative partner outlet called Capital.
It was claimed his movements were similar to another journey he allegedly took in April 2015 to Bulgaria around the time a Bulgarian defence industry businessman suddenly fell sick.
Fedotov was due to fly out of Sofia on 28 April 2015 - the same day Emilian Gebrev was taken to hospital after collapsing at a reception he was hosting in Sofia, according to the piece.
"He did not show up for the return flight. Instead, late on the evening of April 28, he showed up at Istanbul's Ataturk airport and bought a last-minute ticket to a flight to Moscow," it said.
Bellingcat reported that Mr Gebrev subsequently fell into a coma.
"Doctors surmised that the poison had been applied or consumed in the day or days preceding April 28th. However, as they could not identify the poison, they could not be sure of its effects or mode of progression," it said.
Two laboratories with knowledge of nerve agents were allegedly unable to identify the poison conclusively. But they "discovered traces of two different organophosphates in Mr Gebrev's urine sample: one of which they could identify as a strong pesticide, while the other remained unidentifiable with the standard testing tools for chemical weapons", the report said.
Mr Gebrev's condition improved and he was discharged from hospital a month later.
However, the investigative website quoted him as saying he fell ill again in May around the same time as another alleged visit to Bulgaria by Fedotov.
Mr Gebrev was quoted as telling Bellingcat that he did not know why the GRU might want to target him.
The British authorities have only ever named two Russian military intelligence officers in the poisoning of the Skripals, using their aliases, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
Bellingcat last year revealed their true identities - Colonel Alexander Mishkin and Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.
Both men deny any involvement in the attack and claimed in a Russian television interview that they had been visiting Salisbury as "tourists".
Bellingcat said a fuller version of its investigation would be published next week.
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