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Russian journalists dig up information about the secret agents who allegedly carried out the Salisbury nerve-agent attack

“Alexander Petrov” (left) and “Ruslan Boshirov,” the Russian suspects identified in the “Novichok” attack in England.
“Alexander Petrov” (left) and “Ruslan Boshirov,” the Russian suspects identified in the “Novichok” attack in England.

On September 5, British counter-terrorism officials put names and faces to the two suspects they blame for carrying out the March 4 “Novichok” nerve agent attack in England against Sergey Skripal and his daughter. London says “Alexander Petrov” and “Ruslan Boshirov” are likely pseudonyms for military intelligence agents, but that hasn’t stopped the Russian news website Fontanka from digging up everything it could find about men with these names.

Fontanka’s sources say Boshirov was born on April 12, 1978, and registered at a 25-story apartment complex in Moscow on Bolshaya Naberezhnaya Street. In July 2015, he was ticketed and fined twice for traffic violations by the same bailiffs’ department, though the case numbers for these tickets seem to reflect separate departments. Neither the online portal for Moscow’s magistrate office nor the city’s misdemeanor database have any record of a man named Ruslan Boshirov.

Fontanka also telephoned several people who live in the apartment building where Boshirov is registered, discovering that the only resident at his supposed address is an elderly woman. Neighbors say they’ve never seen any man enter the apartment, but some suggested that she might have a son who never visits.

On social media, Boshirov is similarly hard to track down. Accounts created in 2014 with this name are mostly inactive. A Facebook page registered under “Ruslan Boshirov” has just a single friend: a young woman from Ukraine. On Vkontakte, Boshirov indicates that he graduated from the geography department at Moscow State University in 2004.

Sources told Fontanka that Boshirov and Petrov received their current passports roughly two years ago, and have since made frequent trips to Europe. Between September 2016 and March 2018, the two men visited Amsterdam, Geneva, Milan, and repeatedly went to Paris. Before the Salisbury attack, Petrov made at least one trip to London, arriving on February 28 and leaving on March 5.

Fontanka was able to find out even less about Petrov. A man with his name and birthdate is registered as a staff member at the federal state unitary enterprise “MicroGen,” Russia’s biggest producer of immunological products. MicroGen operates nine branches nationwide, working mostly with vaccines, and reports to Russia's Health Ministry.