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Changes May be Coming to Russia’s Military Intelligence Service

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 video grab file image provided by the RT channel on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, a man identified as Alexander Petrov attends his first public appearance in an interview with the RT channel in Moscow, Russia.
Changes May be Coming to Russia’s Military Intelligence Service
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Russian officials are considering possible action after the naming of a second Russian agent suspected of carrying out a nerve-agent attack in England earlier this year.

Russian media is reporting that the government may be getting ready to oust the leadership of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.

On Monday, the investigative website Bellingcat identified the second suspect as Alexander Mishkin, a medical doctor working for the GRU. He is one of two intelligence officers suspected in the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England.

The website said it had been able to make the identification after getting a copy of Mishkin’s passport and confirming details with people who knew him. The site said it also used other public information.

Last month, Bellingcat, along with the news website Insider, identified the other suspected poisoner as Anatoliy Chepiga, a colonel in the GRU. They said that he traveled to England under the name Ruslan Boshirov, while Mishkin used the name Alexander Petrov.

Bellingcat also reported that both men were once named Hero of the Russian Federation.

Former British foreign secretary William Hague says the reports from Bellingcat and others on the GRU attack have proven that the Russian government denials are lies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other government officials have dismissed reports that GRU operatives tried to murder Skripal. They also deny claims that the Russian intelligence services have carried out active measures in Europe and other areas.

The government has said that the poisoning in Salisbury either never happened or that British intelligence did it to blame Russia. They also suggested that some unknown person may have been responsible.

Skripal worked for both Russian and British intelligence in the 1990s. In December 2004, he was arrested by Russian officials. He was tried, found guilty of treason and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was included in a 2010 spy exchange with Britain, and later moved to the English city of Salisbury.

While Russia continues to deny any responsibility, the two GRU operatives left behind a lot of evidence. Last week, Dutch and British officials said that a four-man GRU team had tried to attack the computers in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, but failed.

British officials say the poison used in Salisbury was novichok, a dangerous nerve agent. They also say Mishkin put the poison on the handle of Skripal’s front door. The poison was kept in a perfume bottle that was left in a trash can. A local woman found the bottle and put the “perfume” on her arms. She later died.

The Bellingcat website reported that Alexander Mishkin was born in 1979. It said, “He…graduated from one of Russia’s elite Military Medical Academies, and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces.” While working for the GRU, he reportedly used the name Alexander Petrov.

But many of the details of Petrov’s life were identical to Mishkin’s life. Experts added that they were surprised to find he used the GRU headquarters as his home address.

British Security Minister Ben Wallace warned Tuesday against underestimating the Russians. He said even with their record of failures, the world must be careful.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Jamie Dettmer reported this story for VOANews. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. The editor was George Grow.

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Words in This Story

handle– n.he part that you turn with your hand to open a door

perfume– n.a liquid substance that you put on your body in small amounts in order to smell pleasant

trash– n.something worth very little or nothing; unwanted objects

graduate– complete a study program

academy– n.a school or college

address– n.a place where a person may be communicated with; directions for mailing on the outside of a letter or container

colonel– officer in the armed forces