Russian Duo Wanted Over Double Agent Poisoning Are Linked to Czech Explosion

Czech Republic officials have linked two Russians, already suspected of poisoning a former double agent in the U.K. in 2018, to a deadly explosion in October 2014.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov have been named by Czech investigators who are looking into the explosion at an ammunition depot that killed two workers.

The blast was so strong it blew out windows in nearby buildings and the remains of two men—aged 56 and 69—were only found more than a month later.

Petrov and Boshirov, whose real names are Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga respectively, are also suspected of poisoning Soviet double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent novichok in Salisbury, southern England, in March 2018. The Skripal's survived the attack.

Czech Republic has expelled 18 Russian diplomats amid allegations that the Kremlin's intelligence services were behind the blast.

A Czech Republic Police statement translated on Google from Czech read: "The police of the Czech Republic, the National Center against Organized Crime of the Criminal Police and Investigation Service requests, in connection with the investigation of the circumstances of serious crime, assistance in searching for two persons who were at least in the second period from October 11, 2014, to November 10, 2016, to move on the territory of the Czech Republic, first in Prague, then in the Moravian-Silesian Region ad the Zlin Region.

"The persons used at least two identities, when they first proved themselves with Russian passports named Alexander Petrov, 41, and Ruslan Boshirov, 43, subsequently by a Moldovan passport in the name of Nicolai Popa, born July 18, 1979, and a passport of Tajikistan issued in the name of Ruslan Tabarov, born October 23, 1975.

Instruoval jsem naše velvyslance při #EU a @NATO, aby informovali naše spojence o kauze Vrbětice. V pondělí o tom budu mluvit i na zasedání ministrů zahraničí #EU.

— Jan Hamáček (@jhamacek) April 18, 2021

Czech interim minister Jan Hamáček, today said he would raise the issue during an EU foreign ministers' meeting on Monday.

In a tweet, translated from Czech into English, he said: "I instructed our ambassadors at EU and Nato to inform our allies about the Vrbětice case. I will also talk about this at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday."

U.K. Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab said the country supported Czech moves to hunt the two suspects.

In a tweet posted today, Raab said: "The U.K. stands in full support of our Czech allies, who have exposed the lengths that the GRU will go to in their attempts to conduct dangerous and malign operations - and highlights a disturbing pattern of behaviour following the attack in Salisbury."

The UK stands in full support of our Czech allies, who have exposed the lengths that the GRU will go to in their attempts to conduct dangerous and malign operations – and highlights a disturbing pattern of behaviour following the attack in Salisbury. https://t.co/dv4rWDl91I

— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) April 18, 2021

The two men, who are suspected to be GRU agents, attempted to explain away their visit to Salisbury on Russia's government-funded TV station RT shortly after the attack.

They claimed they had only visited the city to see its cathedral.

During the bizarre TV appearance, Petrov said: "Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town."

The interview came after British investigators the attempted murder of the Skripals released stills from CCTV cameras that appeared to show the pair in Salisbury around the time of the poisoning.

Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov
Ruslan Boshirov (left) and Alexander Petrov (right) are accused of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the U.K. Getty Images / London Metropolitan Police