Skri­pal sus­pects’ pass­port data had ‘top se­cret’ mark­ings

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Gareth Davies and Vic­to­ria Ward

RUS­SIA’S claims that the prime sus­pects in the Sal­is­bury poi­son­ing case are “civil­ians” were fur­ther un­der­mined last night when it emerged that their pass­port data con­tained “top se­cret” mark­ings.

An anal­y­sis of the orig­i­nal files on Alexan­der Petrov and Rus­lan Boshi­rov found an un­usual stamp con­tain­ing the in­struc­tion “Do not pro­vide any in­for­ma­tion” and a hand-writ­ten note stat­ing: “There is a let­ter. S.S.”

SS is a com­mon ab­bre­vi­a­tion for “sover­shenno sekretno” – Rus­sian for “top se­cret”.

The data, ob­tained and an­a­lysed by Belling­cat, a Uk-based in­ves­tiga­tive web­site, re­port­edly re­veals that the two in­ter­nal pass­ports were is­sued in 2009 but that un­usu­ally, no records ex­ist for ei­ther of them be­fore that date.

This sug­gests the two names were “likely cover iden­ti­ties for op­er­a­tives of one of the Rus­sian se­cu­rity ser­vices”, the web­site said.

A note in Petrov’s file is said to make ref­er­ence to a pre-ex­ist­ing na­tional pass­port is­sued in St. Peters­burg in 1999, which does not ap­pear to ex­ist in the cen­tral pass­port data­base.

The file also con­tains no ref­er­ence to the pass­port Petrov used to travel to the UK, con­trary to nor­mal prac­tice.

Mean­while, the Rus­sian jour­nal­ist who in­ter­viewed the two men hung up on Kirsty Wark, the BBC News­night pre­sen­ter, when she sug­gested her Krem­lin-funded net­work was a “pro­pa­ganda tool” for the state.

Mar­garita Si­monyan, ed­i­tor-in-chief, of RT, in­ter­viewed Petrov and Boshi­rov when the men in­sisted that they made a week­end visit to Bri­tain to see Sal­is­bury cathe­dral and were vic­tims of a “fan­tas­ti­cal co­in­ci­dence”.

When Si­monyan was asked by Wark if she was con­cerned that the in­ter­view re­in­forced the idea that RT was a pro­pa­gan­dist sta­tion, she gave a spiky re­sponse.

“You did watch the in­ter­view, didn’t you? … Your ques­tion seems like typ­i­cal Western pro­pa­ganda be­cause of which peo­ple ac­tu­ally watch RT. It’s noth­ing like you’re say­ing it was. Thank you very much.”

Wark was in the process of try­ing to ask an­other ques­tion when her guest hung up.

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