Salisbury poisonings: What do we know about Russian spy Denis Sergeev?

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Denis Sergeev
Denis Sergeev

The suspected ringleader behind the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal is a decorated former soldier who rose through the ranks of Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU.

Highly trained and ruthless, he is suspected of carrying out a number of operations across Europe before heading up the team that carried out the Novichok attack in Salisbury in March 2018.

Travelling and staying separately from his two secret agent colleagues, Sergeev is believed to have overseen the mission and may have even delivered the deadly nerve agent to Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, before returning to Moscow.

Born in 1973 in Soviet Kazakhstan close to the border with China, Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeev was brought up in a small military town.

After serving in the Russian Army on the Black Sea coast, he enrolled in Russia’s elite Military Diplomatic Academy, known in Moscow as the GRU Conservatory.

After undergoing intensive training he graduated joining a small band of Russian agents deployed around the world.

Details of his travel, obtained by the Bellingcat website, show how Sergeev travelled extensively throughout Europe between 2012 and 2018, visiting the UK on a number of occasions.

Counter terrorism police have not been able to link those visits to the plot to kill the Skripals.

It is thought he began using the false identity of Sergey Fedetov in 2010, with a sophisticated cover story setting him up with a fake business and false address in Moscow.

Achieving the rank of Major General, Sergeev is believed to be the head of GRU unit 29155, tasked with carrying out a series of deadly missions on behalf of the Russian State.

In October 2014 the group, led by Sergeev is suspected of setting off an explosion at an ammunition storage depot in a forest in the Czech Republic.

Two men are thought to have been killed in the blast, which was initially put down to an accident.

Six months after the Czech explosion, a Bulgarian arms dealer and entrepreneur, Emilian Gebrev fell seriously ill along with his adult son in Sofia.

The cause of his illness was not initially known but after the Salisbury attack suspicion fell on the GRU.

Travel records suggest Sergeev was in Sofia at the same time that Gebrev fell ill.

Sergeev is thought to be married with an adult daughter.

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