The Dossier Center has published an investigative report on the website MBKh Media claiming that Anatoly Chepiga — the supposed real name of Salisbury poisoning suspect “Ruslan Boshirov” — received his Hero of the Russian Federation award for his part in rescuing deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from Ukraine in February 2014. Chepiga allegedly received the honor alongside “Putin’s former personal bodyguard,” Alexey Dyumin, who was recently appointed to serve as governor of the Tula region. Several other members of that special forces group went on to form the “backbone” of the private military company Wagner, according to Dossier Center reporter Sergey Kanev, who also told Hromadske that “everyone says Dyumin is Putin’s successor.”
Founded by the former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Dossier Center isn’t revealing its sources, and Kanev’s article only mentions an anonymous former colonel at the Military Diplomatic Academy (also known as the “GRU Conservatory”) who claims that “Boshirov” was one of many cadets registered at civilian dormitories, after the academy’s own dorm addresses became known to the public. The Dossier Center says it has the records of 123 GRU officers who studied at the “Conservatory” between 2009 and 2015, possibly including the real identity of Alexander Petrov, the other Salisbury suspect.
Meanwhile, Novaya Gazeta interviewed three fellow soldiers in Chepiga’s old Spetznaz detachment, one of whom said he recognized “Ruslan Boshirov” in the televised interview on RT. “The Boshirov who spoke to [RT chief editor Margarita] Simonyan isn’t Boshirov but Anatoly Chepiga. He’s changed his looks, but Boshirov’s voice is Tolya’s voice,” said a man who served with Chepiga in the early 2000s outside Khabarovsk. The other two veterans said they weren’t sure if Boshirov and Chepiga are the same person, admitting that they hadn’t seen him in more than 12 years.
One of the men claimed that Chepiga partly owed the meteoric rise of his career to an influential “bigwig” relative in Khabarovsk. The man says Chepiga also seemed to have enjoyed criminal connections that earned him respect from higher-ranking officers, including Colonel Vitaly Bernikov, who served as one of Vladimir Putin’s presidential proxies in February 2004 and is now retired.
Novaya Gazeta’s three sources name three “key special operations in Crimea in February 2014” that were bloodless successes that could have warranted the Hero of the Russian Federation award: