At least one of the two Russian men charged in Britain with poisoning a former Russia spy and his daughter with a deadly nerve agent in the UK earlier this year visited Israel in 2016, according to a Thursday report.
The investigative website Bellingcat and Russian publication The Insider’s published a joint analysis of leaked passport documents, belonging to the men identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, which the sites say prove the two were employed by Russia’s security services.
Petrov’s passport shows a number of trips between Moscow and various European cities. In July 2016, the report said Petrov traveled to Kazakhstan, where he told authorities he was en route to Beijing. His whereabouts for the next two weeks are unknown, but Petrov showed up again on a flight from Tel Aviv to Moscow 15 days later.
The websites found no record of Petrov’s entry into Israel, and did not have any evidence of the purpose of his visit.
The website did not track Boshirov’s movements, so it is possible the two were together on those trips. The findings were not independently confirmed.
According to the two websites, both Petrov and Boshirov had markings on their passports that appear to confirm they were agents for Russia’s military intelligence agency known as the GRU.
These included “‘Top Secret’ annotations, a blank biographical page referring to a secret attached letter, a “do not provide information” stamp, and issuing authority unit 777001, exclusively used for state VIPs and intelligence officers,” the websites said.
The passports were also marked with a cryptic number which the websites said was a phone number within the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Britain earlier this month charged Boshirov and Petrov in absentia, alleging they were GRU agents who were dispatched to Salisbury to poison former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok.
British police released CCTV footage and photographs showing the two men walking in Skripal’s neighborhood on March 4, the day of the attack. Britain said the attack was almost certainly approved “at a senior level of the Russian state,” an allegation that Moscow has vehemently denied.
Replying to the interviewer’s question why the pair went to Salisbury for two days in a row, Boshirov said that when they first got to the town it was snowy and they got wet so they decided to take the train back.
They said they may have passed by Skripal’s house but they did not know him.
The men made a public appearance last Thursday, being interviewed on Russia’s RT news a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russian authorities know the identities of the two men, but insisted that they are civilians and there is “nothing criminal” about them. He called on them to contact the media.
Putin’s claims were rejected last Wednesday by James Slack, spokesman of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who called the men GRU officers “who used a devastatingly toxic illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country.”
“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March and they have replied with obfuscation and lies,” Slack said. “I have seen nothing to suggest that has changed.”