A suspected third member of the Kremlin hit squad behind the Salisbury nerve agent attack has been named, according to a respected Russian news website.
Sergey Fedotov, 45, travelled to the UK on the same day as the two assassins already charged by British authorities - and boarded the same flight home.
The Telegraph had previously reported the existence of a third member of the Russian intelligence hit squad and a trawl of flight records by the Fontanka news agency matched it to Fedotov.
According to Fontanka, Fedotov flew to the UK on a passport whose number differs by only a few digits from those used by the two GRU military intelligence agents officially wanted for the nerve agent attack.
It is almost certain Fedotov is not the passenger’s real name but an alias. No traces of Sergei Fedotov have been found in documentary databases or on social media. He has no property, vehicles or telephone numbers registered to his name in Russia, according to Fontanka.
The news site had also previously obtained flight details for Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, the aliases of two GRU agents. It is now known that Boshirov is actually Anatoliy Chepiga, a colonel in the GRU, and Petrov is Alexander Mishkin, a medical doctor inside the GRU, probably also with the rank of colonel.
Both men were awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation, the country’s highest honour and bestowed by president Vladimir Putin in 2014.
The hit squad targeted Sergei Skripal, a former GRU colonel who had sold secrets to MI6. Col Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were exposed to the military grade nerve agent novichok but both survived the assassination attempt. Dawn Sturgess, a Salisbury resident, died after spraying herself with nerve agent that had been disguised in a perfume bottle and discarded by Chepiga and Mishkin.
The role of Fedotov is not clear. CCTV images released by British counter terrorism police show only Chepiga and Mishkin in Salisbury on the day of the attack as well as the day before. It is possible Fedotov formed part of a reconnaissance team to scope Col Skripal’s home in a quiet cul-de-sac.
The Telegraph identified Alexander Petrov this week as GRU officer Alexander Mishkin, also believed to have been awarded the Hero of Russia award.
Fedotov’s travel itinerary, according to Fontanka, shows him arriving in London on a separate flight on March 2 - the day the two other agents arrived - but leaving on the same flight on March 4, the day of the nerve agent attack.
Fedotov’s passport number differs by only a few digits. It is of the same ‘64 series’ linked to not only Chepiga and Mishkin but also to other suspected agents such as Col Eduard Shishmakov, who is accused of the failed plot to assassinate the prime minister of Montenegro before its referendum to join Nato.
According to Fontaka, Fedotov previously travelled to the UK in March 2016 and March 2017 and again this year. It said he also flew to the Czech Republic with Mishkin in January and February 2014 ahead of an apparent operation to monitor the movements of Col Skripal, who at the time was said to be briefing Czech secret services.
It raises the prospect that Col Skripal, who had been living in the UK since a spy swap in 2010, had been a GRU target for at least four years. Chepiga and Mishkin returned to the Czech Republic in October 2014, the same month that Skripal travelled to the country to advise local intelligence officers on Russian espionage activities.
Like his comrades, Fedotov frequently jetted around Europe, travelling to Kiev, Milan and Geneva.
Chepiga and Mishkin have gone to ground since their identities were exposed. No one answered the door at a Moscow flat where Chepiga is listed as the owner when the Telegraph visited. There was also no response when the Telegraph knocked at the flat where Mishkin was registered.
“Maybe this looks like him, I haven’t been able to compare it,” neighbour Anton Chepusov said. “You’d better ask him [Mishkin].”
More details about Fedotov’s real identity are likely to emerge. More than 300 suspected GRU agents were exposed this month after they registered automobiles to the address of GRU unit 26165, which has been accused of hacking the 2016 US election.