BFF-47 Britain and Bulgaria to probe report of new Skripal suspect

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Britain and Bulgaria to probe report of new Skripal suspect

SOFIA, Feb 11, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Britain and Bulgaria are investigating a
possible third suspect in the Salisbury chemical attack who has also been
linked to a 2015 poisoning in Bulgaria, the British ambassador to Sofia said
Monday.

Emma Hopkins made the comments after talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister
Boyko Borisov and chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.

“We will continue in close partnership together with a joint team looking
into the factual underpinning of these allegations,” Hopkins said at a
televised news conference.

A report published last week by the investigative website Bellingcat
identified a hitherto unknown possible third suspect in last year’s attack in
the English city of Salisbury on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his
daughter.

Both had to be hospitalised after being exposed to the highly toxic nerve
agent Novichok in an attack the British government says was “almost
certainly” approved by the Russian state.

According to Bellingcat, the possible new suspect is a Russian military
intelligence officer known under the alias “Sergey Fedotov”.

The site said Fedotov had arrived in Britain two days before the Skripals
were poisoned and could have been involved in the attack.

– ‘Insecticide used’ –

Bellingcat has already used open-source techniques to identify two Russian
military intelligence officers, Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin,
accused by Britain of carrying out the attack.

Despite Russian denials that they were involved, both men are now the
subject of EU sanctions.

Bellingcat also argues that “Fedotov” may have been involved in the
poisoning of Bulgarian arms manufacturer Emiliyan Gebrev, his son and a
company executive in 2015.

Following Bellingcat’s report and others in Bulgarian media, the prosecutor
Tsatsarov on Monday said that “Fedotov” had travelled to Bulgaria three times
in 2015; in February, again in April — arriving shortly before Gebrev’s
poisoning — and finally in May.

Tsatsarov said that the 2015 poisoning was “most probably” carried out
using the insecticide Chlorpyrifos, traces of which were found on the coffee
machine in Gebrev’s home.

Gebrev collapsed at a reception he was hosting in Sofia on 28 April 2015
and fell into a coma. His son and one of his company executives were also
treated for poisoning symptoms although all three recovered.

Tsatsarov said the probe into the Gebrev poisoning had been reopened in
October 2018, and that the British authorities had “been provided with full
access to all the documents and materials on this case”.

Bulgarian media reports said Gebrev could have been targeted by Russia for
exporting arms to Ukraine.

“European partners take very seriously allegations in relation to
activities on European jurisdiction of Russian intelligence officers,”
Hopkins said. The Skripal case had given the UK experience of investigating
such allegations, she added.

The Salisbury attack, the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe
since World War II, caused an international outcry and prompted a mass
expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western nations — but not by Bulgaria.

While Skripal and his daughter survived the attack, a British woman died
last June after her partner picked up a discarded perfume bottle that
investigators believe was used to carry the Novichok.

BSS/AFP/RY/20:30 hrs