Salisbury suspect a Russian colonel who was likely personally honoured by Putin

Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga

Two Russian men later appeared on the state-funded RT channel and made widely mocked claims that they only went to England in early March to visit the "wonderful town" of Salisbury and its famous cathedral.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on Bellingcat's latest claim.

Russian Federation denies any involvement in the poisoning, and the two men have said they were merely tourists who had flown to London for fun and visited Salisbury to see its cathedral.

Britain has charged him and another suspect, Alexander Petrov, with trying to kill Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok in the city of Salisbury on March 4.

The 39-year-old trained at one of Russia's elite academies and served with a special forces unit under the command of the GRU - Russia's military intelligence service, the website said in a report.

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This short, off-season global jaunt just happened to coincide precisely with the poisoning of the Skripals with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union.

Sitting next to the leaders of China and Japan, Vladimir Putin insisted Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were civilians with "nothing criminal" about their trip to Salisbury.

United Kingdom authorities believe Chepiga and his accomplice smeared the highly toxic novichok chemical on a door handle at the Wiltshire home of former GRU officer Mr Skripal, leaving him and his daughter critically ill.

The post was removed after 20 minutes and using Twitter's web client, according to Politwoops, a UK-based service tracking tweets deleted by members of Parliament and other political figures.

He is thought to have been working undercover for almost a decade, says Bellingcat, which traced his and "Petrov's" movements across Europe over several years.

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The Kremlin was branded shameful on Wednesday night after claiming Chepiga and his unknown accomplice were holidaymakers - as Russian lies were seemingly exposed.

Unusually, there are virtually no details or photographs relating to Chepiga's Hero of the Russian Federation decoration.

The new report says Chepiga is a highly-decorated GRU officer with the rank of colonel, who assumed the identify of Ruslan Boshirov for his undercover mission in Britain. CCTV released by police showed the two men in Salisbury close to Skripal's house on the day of the poisoning. Britain and the US, as well as its European allies, have condemned Russia for the attack, expelling dozens of Russian diplomats in retaliation.

The pair survived the attack but two more people were poisoned and one of the victims, Dawn Sturgess, died in July.

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