On January 16, EU officials coordinated efforts on slapping sanctions on four Russian intelligence officers whom the bloc holds responsible for carrying out chemical attacks in Europe.
“EU ambassadors have today agreed to sanction four GRU officers, including the two Salisbury ‘tourists’. 5 people from Syria will also be listed,” Rikard Jozwiak, RFE/RL reporter in Brussels, said on Twitter.
The information has been confirmed by Russia’s source in the Council of the European Union when reached by news agency TASS:
“The envoys agreed to blacklist four GRU officers, including two suspects in the attack in Salisbury,” the diplomat said.
The source did not name the other two persons. Their names will be be known after the Council upholds the EU ambassadors’ decision. “The foreign ministers are expected to it on January, 21 at the scheduled meeting in Brussels,” he added.
Apparently, the measure is part of a new sanctions regime approved in October 2018. It allows the EU to impose asset freezes and visa bans on people and entities for the development and use of chemical weapons regardless of their nationality and location.
On March 4, former Russian agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yuliya, 33, were found unconscious at a shopping mall in the English town of Salisbury. The two were taken to hospital in critical condition. The were reportedly poisoned following exposure to an unknown substance. A bit later, British Prime Minister Theresa May said they had been poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.
In early September, British prosecutors said the names of two Russian citizens suspected of poisoning the Skripals were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. In the wake of it, the Insider and OSINT group Bellingcat published he results of its journalistic investigation. According to the journalists, the real name of ‘Ruslan Boshirov’ is Anatoly Chepiga, a GRU Colonel and Hero of Russia, while ‘Alexander Petrov’ is GRU officer Alexander Mishkin in real life.
‘Petrov’ and ‘Boshirov’ denied their having any relation to the Russian special services in the interview with the Kremlin mouthpiece Russia Today. They claimed they had visited Salisbury to see the sights, including the local medieval cathedral. Their clumsy statements and ridiculous explanations triggered a wave of jokes on the Internet.
Later, the British media outlet Telegraph reported with reference to its own sources that a third Russian military intelligence officer who had carried out a reconnaissance mission before the poisoning of Sergei Skripal was identified by counter terrorism police and the security services.
The incident caused a number of rows and caused a diplomatic war between the West and the Kremlin.