Passport Similarities Could Be Exposing Russian Spies In Europe

Grace Carr | Reporter

An investigation into passport similarities among Russian poisoning suspects reportedly provided insight into whether or not the individuals are linked to Russian security services.

Two men accused of poisoning Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent, have passports that “shared similar features with a number of other files that are believed to be associated with Russian spies,” The Washington Post reported Monday.

Passports of the accused — Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov — reportedly had phone numbers connected to Russian military facilities as well as similar passport numbers and issuing authority, according to a joint investigation from Bellingcat and Russia Insider. The report “appears to have provided European agencies with a number of details,” according to WaPo.

The passports were scrutinized after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with nerve agent Novichok on March 4 in Salisbury, England. Investigators in the joint report determined that prime suspects Boshirov and Petrov likely used false identities to cover for their involvement in the Skripals’ murders since they found no record of them individuals before 2009. (RELATED: Russian Gov’t Responds To Charges Against Alleged Spy Linked To NRA)

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Sept. 12 that the men were civilians who “traveled to Salisbury for a tourist getaway,” according to the joint report.

Bellingcat and Russian Insider also discovered “top-secret” markings on one of the passports, indicating the unlikelihood that they were simply civilian tourists in the area at the time of the poisoning.

Passports with similar features to Boshirov and Petrov’s documents were also found to be connected to an attempted coup in Montenegro, The Guardian reported Sunday.

Russia’s explanation of the poisoning “was a major disaster,” said former KGB agent Alexander Vassiliev, according to CBC News.

“The propaganda machine is not working. It’s mistake after mistake,” he added. Vassiliev is currently a London-based espionage historian.

“We are poisoning ourselves,” Russian economist and politician Grigory Yavlinsky also said, CBC reported.

Norwegian authorities arrested a man Friday on suspicions of being a Russian spy, and Estonia charged at least 12 alleged Russian spies since 2008, according to WaPo. Dutch officials also arrested two men suspected of spying for the Russian government earlier in 2018.

Roughly 200,000 Russians live in London, and more than 700,000 Londoners speak Russian, according to ABC News.

Follow Grace on Twitter.

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