'Ringleader' behind Salisbury murder plot is ex Russian paratrooper
Hunt for the red ‘ringleader’ behind Novichok plot: Scotland Yard name Russian paratrooper captain turned GRU spy as THIRD man wanted over Salisbury poison attack – as original fugitives remain at large
- Met Police today identified individual as Sergey Fedotov and said he was a Russian national, aged about 50
- Video has emerged of him discussing his exploits as a captain serving as a paratrooper fighting Chechens
- The suspect arrived at Heathrow on a flight from Moscow at 11am on March 2, two days before the poisoning
- Unlike two other GRU agents, Fedotov never went to Salisbury, raising prospect he was the unit’s commander
- Charges authorised by Crown Prosecution Service against all three men, including for conspiracy to murder
Footage has emerged of the alleged ringleader of the Sainsbury Novichok attack describing attacking Chechen rebels while serving as a paratrooper in 1999.
Police today said Sergey Fedotov, real name Denis Sergeev, faces a string of charges including trying to kill former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and police officer Nick Bailey.
A recently uncovered video shows Fedotov discussing his exploits as a captain serving in the first paratroopers’ company of the 108th air assault regiment.
The unit – based in Novorossiysk, on Russia’s Black Sea coast – was involved in fighting in Dagestan in the summer of 1999, and later in Chechnya.
A recently uncovered video shows suspected Salisbury ringleader Sergey Fedotov discussing his exploits as a captain serving in the first paratroopers’ company of the 108th air assault regiment
His unit – based in Novorossiysk, on Russia’s Black Sea coast – was involved in fighting in Dagestan in the summer of 1999, and later in Chechnya
The videos relate to an attempt to recapture Mount Alilen in Dagestan from Chechen fighters. Fedotov was injured during the operation and decorated, Bellingcat revealed.
In two separate clips he described the operation.
In the first, he said: ‘When the ascent began on Mount Alilen, a downpour came down and it lasted about two or three hours. everyone was soaked, feet slipped and so on.’
In the second clip, Sergeev recalled his exploits in more detail. ‘Firstly, helicopters were shot down,’ he said.
‘Second, it (the mountain) was dominant over the entire valley, and the entire gorge, where the villages of Rakhata and Ansalta were located. And when I went up there, (the village) Tando was exclusively in the palm of my hand.
‘It could be shot at calmly. Well, not to mention the fact of all the movements of federal troops at our former base.
‘They were extremely visible and could be fired upon. If we had failed to take this mountain the success of the operation would be dubious.’
Officers identified the third Salisbury poisoning suspect as Sergey Fedotov (real name Denis Sergeev) and said he was a Russian national, aged about 50. This image is taken from his travel documents
Today, Downing Street has admitted it would be ‘futile’ to seek the Fedotov and his two accomplices’ extradition while they remained in Russia.
The PM’s spokesman said: ‘We have said before that the use of Novichok nerve agent on British soil was a sickening and despicable act and a clear violation of the chemical weapons convention. The PM’s thoughts remain with those affected by the attack.
‘This wasn’t a rogue operation and only the Russian state had both the technical means, experience and the motive to carry out the attack.
‘But you will be aware that we don’t have an extradition treaty with Russia and as we have found with other cases such as Litvinenko any formal extradition request is futile.’
He then added: ‘But if these individuals should ever travel outside Russia we will do everything we can to detain them, to extradite them and to bring them to justice here in the UK.’
The Skripals were left fighting for their lives in March 2018 when members of a Russian military intelligence hit squad are believed to have smeared deadly nerve agent Mr Skripal’s door handle in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Mr Bailey was one of the officers investigating the case and also became seriously ill.
Fedotov is accused of seven charges, including three of attempted murder as well as conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal, causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia and Mr Bailey, and possession and use of a chemical weapon.
These are the same counts faced by two other suspects in the case already identified by police in 2018 – Alexander Mishkin, who used the name Alexander Petrov while in the UK, and Anatoliy Chepiga, who used the alias Ruslan Boshirov.
Investigators say they now have evidence linking the three to Russian military intelligence service the GRU, and that the trio have been involved in similar operations in other countries including Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.
News website Bellingcat previously reported that Fedotov is suspected of involvement in the poisoning of an arms manufacturer, his son and a factory manager in Bulgaria in 2015, while Boshirov and Petrov are accused of being part of a squad behind an explosion at an arms depot in the Czech Republic the previous year.
But with no extradition treaty in place, and Moscow denying any knowledge of the incident, UK authorities are powerless to put the suspects before an English court.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, who is the senior national co-ordinator for UK counter-terrorism policing, said: ‘The investigation team has been piecing together evidence that suggests that Petrov, Boshirov and Fedotov have all previously worked with each other and on behalf of the Russian state as part of operations carried out outside of Russia.’
They had all visited the UK before 2018, although there is no evidence that this was for reconnaissance purposes, police said.
‘All three of them are dangerous individuals,’ Mr Haydon said. ‘They have tried to murder people here in the UK, and they have also brought an extremely dangerous chemical weapon into the UK by means unknown.
‘The amount of Novichok in that perfume bottle was quite significant and if it had come into the wider circulation of the public, without a doubt it would have killed hundreds if not thousands of people.’
The Met released an image of Fedotov leaving Heathrow at 1.45pm on Sunday March 4 – the same day as the Salisbury attack
Police believe Fedotov’s real name was Denis Sergeev and he is a member of the GRU, Russian military intelligence
Fedotov entered the UK at 11am on March 2 2018, flying from Moscow to Heathrow and arriving about four hours before Petrov and Boshirov landed at Gatwick.
The three met a number of times in the coming days, both out in the open and at indoor venues, but Fedotov did not leave the capital.
Russia is ordered to pay £105,000 compensation to Alexander Litvinenko’s widow as European Court of Human rights finds state WAS responsible for his 2006 assassination
By Rachael Bunyan for MailOnline
Russia has been ordered to pay £105,000 in damages to Alexander Litvinenko’s widow after European judges ruled the state is responsible for his 2006 murder.
The European Court of Human Rights issued the ruling today in response to a claim brought by Marina Litvinenko, the ex-KGB agent’s widow, in November last year.
Alexander Litvinenko is pictured at the Intensive Care Unit of University College Hospital on November 20, 2006 in London. He died three days later
‘Russia was responsible for the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in the UK,’ a ruling issued by six of the seven-member Strasbourg court said – with the sole Russian judge dissenting.
Litvinenko, a prominent critic of the Kremlin, died aged 43 in London after drinking green tea laced with Polonium 210 at the plush Millennium Hotel in Mayfair.
Britain has long blamed the attack on Russia, saying he was poisoned by Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun. The ECHR agreed with that assessment.
But Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, was quick to dismiss the findings – calling them ‘unfounded’ and adding: ‘We are not prepared to accept such decisions’.
Fedotov – who police are now hunting – is said to have met the other two men on more than one occasion in in the ‘open air’ in central London before the attack.
Unlike the other two, no traces of the nerve agent were found at his hotel and he did not travel to Salisbury, leading to speculation that he could have been the unit’s commander.
He returned to Moscow on a flight from Heathrow on Sunday March 4 at 1.45pm. Petrov and Boshirov flew back from the same airport at 10.30pm that night.
Mr Haydon told today’s briefing: ‘In addition to identifying Fedotov’s presence in the UK, the investigation team has also been piecing together evidence that suggests all three of them have previously worked with each other, and on behalf of the Russian state, as part of operations carried out, outside of Russia.’
He said the men’s real names were Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga and Fedotov’s real name was Denis Sergeev and that all three were members of the GRU, Russian military intelligence.
It is the first time that police have been able to evidentially link their suspects to the Russian spy agency, said Mr Haydon, senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism.
Officers are also liaising with investigators in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic about reports the men had visited there.
Charges have now been authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service against all three for conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm and possession of a chemical weapon.
Images of Fedotov were released to the media showing him on his travel documents and from CCTV taken as he arrived and left the country through Heathrow.
The poison was contained in a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle, tragically found in June that year in a charity shop bin in Amesbury by Charlie Rowley.
He was left seriously ill and his girlfriend Dawn Sturgess died after coming into contact with the deadly substance.
Police have appealed to the public for any information about how the bottle came to be found eight miles from Salisbury, and where it was stored between the departure of the would-be assassins from the UK in March and its discovery three months later.
‘We want to hear from anyone who might have information relating to the perfume box in the bottle during that period,’ Mr Haydon said.
Alexander Petrov (left) and Ruslan Boshirov, the two other Russian military intelligence officers accused of carrying out the poisoning
Both of the suspects are spotted at Salisbury train station, where authorities believe they are carrying out reconnaissance mission
Mr Haydon said Fedotov was identified early in the investigation but the team did not have enough information to bring charges.
‘From the outset of the investigation, there were a number of lines of inquiry, a number of individuals that we were investigating.
Timeline of Salisbury horror that shocked the world
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and police officer Nick Bailey were poisoned with Novichok in Salisbury in March 2018. Here is a timeline of how events unfolded:
– March 4 2018: Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, are found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
– March 7: Police say a nerve agent was used to poison the pair and the case is being treated as attempted murder.
– March 8: Then-home secretary Amber Rudd says Wiltshire Police officer Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey is seriously ill in hospital.
– March 12: Then-prime minister Theresa May tells the House of Commons the nerve agent Novichok is of Russian origin and the Government has concluded it is ‘highly likely’ Russia is responsible for the poisoning.
– March 14: Mrs May tells MPs the UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats, calling the incident an ‘unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK’.
– March 22: DS Bailey is discharged from hospital but says life will ‘probably never be the same’.
– March 26: Britain’s allies announce more than 100 Russian agents are being sent home from 22 countries, in what Mrs May calls the ‘largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history’.
– April 10: Ms Skripal is discharged from hospital, followed by her father just over a month later.
– June 30: Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley fall ill at a flat in Muggleton Road in Amesbury, eight miles from Salisbury, and are taken to hospital.
– July 4: Police declare a ‘major incident’ after revealing Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley have been exposed to an ‘unknown substance’, later confirmed to be Novichok.
– July 8: Ms Sturgess dies in hospital after exposure to the nerve agent and a murder investigation is launched.
– July 10: Mr Rowley regains consciousness and is discharged from hospital later that month.
– September 4: Independent investigator the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirms the toxic chemical which killed Ms Sturgess was the same nerve agent as that which poisoned the Skripals.
– September 5: Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service say there is sufficient evidence to charge two Russians, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with offences including conspiracy to murder over the attack.
– September 12: Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is ‘nothing criminal’ about Petrov and Boshirov. Downing Street insists they are GRU officers ‘who used a devastatingly toxic illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country’.
– September 13: Petrov and Boshirov are interviewed by Russian state-funded news channel RT in which they claim they were tourists visiting Salisbury.
– March 1 2019: The Ministry of Defence announces Salisbury is to be declared decontaminated of Novichok after an almost year-long military clean-up of 12 sites.
– June 2020: BBC docudrama The Salisbury Poisonings is broadcast over three consecutive nights. Its first episode was reported to have been watched by more than seven million viewers, making it the biggest UK television premiere of the year so far.
– August 2020: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is treated in hospital in Germany after it was suspected he was poisoned with Novichok.
– March 2021: Three years on from the attack, UK counter-terrorism police say they ‘remain as determined and committed as ever’ to bring those responsible to justice.
– September 2021: Investigators say they have sufficient evidence to charge a third man over the poisonings – Russian spy Denis Sergeev, also known as Sergey Fedotov.
‘There has been a delay with the third man. We were able to evidence the first two pretty quickly but the third man has taken slightly longer.
‘We have to follow due process, and by that I mean investigation, putting it into evidence, putting it before the Crown Prosecution Service, and then eventually we ended up where we are today.’
The three men acted as a ‘small team’ and had made previous visits to Britain, Mr Haydon said.
‘In my mind, they’ve operated as a as a small team with a view to deploy Novichok to kill individuals in this country.
‘We have other intelligence that suggests they’ve been here before, but we know that they’ve been in other countries as well, operating as a threesome and likely with others as well.
‘Linking three of them to the GRU evidentially, our interest now is, who else was involved?
‘I feel these questions can be really difficult to put a number, but I can say it remains an active line of inquiry of who exactly was involved.’
There have previously been ‘exchanges’ on diplomatic channels with Russia but Britain does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, and police say they have not had any cooperation from Russia in relation to the investigation.
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found on a park bench in Salisbury after they were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, believed to have been smeared on the door handle at Mr Skripal’s home.
The attack is believed to have been ordered by Russian intelligence in revenge for Skripal’s work as a double agent for MI6 during the 1990s. He was arrested in 2004 and moved to the UK six years later following a spy-swap deal.
Det Sgt Nick Bailey, one of the police officers who responded to the attack was also taken seriously ill following the attack on March 4 2018.
Four months later Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old mother of three, died from a dose of the nerve agent after her partner, Charlie Rowley, found a discarded bottle which turned out to contain the nerve agent.
Despite circumstantial evidence, police have still been unable to link the find by Mr Rowley to the original attack and so the three Russian spies, have only been charged with attempting to kill Mr Skripal, his daughter and DC Bailey.
They are accused of conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal, the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and DC Bailey, and causing grievous bodily harm to Yulia Skripal and DC Bailey.
A fourth charge was brought for the use and possession of Novichok, contrary to the chemical weapons act.
Scotland Yard released images and details of two men who used the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov in September 2018.
Soon afterwards, the pair appeared on Russian TV saying they were tourists who had were visiting Salisbury and see its famous 123 metre spire.
At the time, they were identified by the investigative website Bellingcat as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga and Dr Alexander Mishkin, two members of the GRU, Russian military intelligence.
Petrov and Boshirov have been linked to a huge explosion which tore apart an ammunitions storage depot in a forest in the Czech Republic on October 16 2014.
The remains of two men, aged 56 and 69, who worked at the site were found more than a month later.
The blast was assumed to have been an accident but in April this year, the Czech authorities identified a special operations team of the GRU called Unit 29155.
An email sent to Imex Group, the company which operated the depot, claiming to be from the National Guard of Tajikistan asked for two men – Ruslan Tabarov from Tajikistan and Nicolaj Popa, a Moldovan citizen – to be given access to the site for an inspection visit.
Police believe that the three suspects identified so far are in Russia, and with no extradition treaty with the country there is little chance of them being brought to the UK.
Nick Price, CPS head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: ‘We will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of Sergey Fedotov as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals. Russia has made this clear following requests for extradition in other cases. Should this position change then an extradition request would be made.’
Sergei Skripal – seen with his daughter, Yulia – served as a double agent for the UK’s intelligence services during the 1990s and early 2000s
Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess (left) and her partner Charlie Rowley (right) fell ill at the flat after she handled a perfume bottle containing the poison. She died while Mr Rowley recovered
Police will apply for an Interpol notice to be issued for Fedotov.
A number of other individuals remain under investigation over possible involvement in the Salisbury case.
No charges have yet been brought over Ms Sturgess’ death, but Mr Haydon said the case remains a live investigation.
A pre-inquest review hearing into her death is due to take place tomorrow.
Wiltshire Police chief constable Kier Pritchard said he welcomed today’s development.
‘I know this announcement by the Counter Terrorism Policing Network today will affect many people – the victims, their families and the communities of Salisbury and Amesbury,’ he said.
‘These shocking incidents had a significant impact on all involved and my thoughts, and those of Wiltshire Police, remain with Sergei and Yulia Skripal, Charlie Rowley, the family of Dawn Sturgess, who tragically died, and former Wiltshire Police Detective Sergeant, Nick Bailey.
‘The Counter Terrorism Policing Network investigation team continues to work tirelessly to seek to bring those responsible to justice and Wiltshire Police will continue to offer our full and ongoing support in this investigation.’
Skripal’s house, where the door handle was smeared with Novichok as part of the hit which shocked the world
Philip Wilkinson, police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire, said: ‘My thoughts, and those of my office, remain with Dawn Sturgess’ family and friends, alongside the other victims who have had their lives devastated by this incident.
‘While today’s announcement is important, it is vital we remember a member of our community was killed and others left changed and traumatised by the barbaric use of a nerve agent on UK soil.
‘Our community has rebuilt and those other victims are coming to terms with the long-lasting implications, so my hope now is the perpetrators will have their appalling crimes levelled against them and all of the victims will see justice served in their names.
‘I am democratically elected to hold our police force to account, it would be widely welcomed if some foreign security services demonstrated that same accountability.’
Anyone who saw Fedotov while he was in the UK or has information relating to the perfume bottle can call the anti-terrorism hotline on 0800 789321 or email [email protected]
Former Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey (pictured with wife Sarah) was also taken seriously ill but went on to recover
Personnel in hazmat suits work to secure a tent covering a bench in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury in 2018, where the Skripals were found seriously ill
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