Russia University Invites Military Intelligence Agents Accused of Novichok Poisoning to 'Information War' Conference

Moscow State University has invited the two men accused of poisoning a Russian double agent in the United Kingdom to a conference on information warfare to mark the one-year anniversary of the poisoning, according to reports.

University Professor Andrey Manoylo first announced the plans on the radio in Moscow, and the exact date of the event has not been confirmed. The university's website has not posted a description of the event, leading to some speculation that the announcement was a joke.

Nevertheless, Manoylo is a political science professor who teaches courses on information warfare, among other subjects.

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    Two Russian nationals using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who appear in this closed circuit TV footage on Fisherton Road, in Salisbury, England, were named as suspects in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, on March 4, 2018. Metropolitan Police/Getty Images

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury, England, on March 4, 2018. Police determined that they had been targeted with a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok that only a foreign government would be capable of producing. The father and daughter ultimately survived the attack, but another British citizen died after coming into contact with the substance.

In August 2018, the U.S. issued new sanctions against Russia over the poisoning. A 1991 law requires the U.S. to use export control laws against a foreign country if it is discovered that the country used chemical weapons, meaning that the Trump administration had no choice but to levy new sanctions against Russia over the incident.

Intelligence agencies in the United Kingdom said two Russian military intelligence (GRU) agents had traveled to the country to carry out the attack. The two men, caught on closed circuit TV footage in Salisbury at the time of the poisoning, said that their names were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and that they had been traveling to England to visit the Salisbury Cathedral as tourists. The Russian state broadcaster RT later aired an interview with the pair, after which it was strongly implied in the Russian media that the two men were romantically involved.

Later, the investigative site Bellingcat identified Boshirov as Anatoliy Chepiga, a high-ranking officer in the Russian military intelligence, and Petrov as Alexander Mishkin, a career GRU spy who had trained as a medical doctor. The group also later discovered that a third member of the Russian military intelligence was in the U.K. at the time of the poisoning.

Moscow has continued to deny its involvement in the poisoning and has claimed that the two men were merely Russian tourists.

U.K. intelligence agencies also reportedly investigated "frantic" activity at the Russian embassy around the time of the poisoning. The U.K. expelled around 23 Russian diplomats in response to the incident.