KYIV, Oct. 2 – A suspect in the Skripal poisoning case was identified as a Russian special forces operative who had helped pro-Russian former Ukrainian leader escape to Russia 2014, a Ukrainian minister said Tuesday.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov made the statement after a meeting with a British minister.
“Avakov noted that one of the participants in the attack in the Salisbury, an officer of the GRU of the Russian Federation, had been recognized in Ukraine as a person who had been involved in transporting ex-president Yanukovych from Ukraine,” the minister’s statement said.
Avakov did not name the suspect, but earlier media reports named the suspect as Anatoliy Chepiga, who is believed to have used the cover name of Ruslan Boshirov during the attack on Skripals.
Avakov’s spokesman declined to comment further.
Former President Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine following massive street protests and police violence that had resulted in more than 100 dead on the Kyiv streets in February 2014.
A lawyer for Yanukovych has previously denied that the Skripal suspect had helped Yanukovych.
Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a public bench in the English city of Salisbury in March. Britain says they were poisoned with a nerve agent administered by Russian intelligence officers, according to Reuters.
The Skripals survived, but a woman who lived in the area, unconnected with them, later died from what British police say was contact with the poison used, which her partner had found in a discarded perfume bottle.
Russia denies any involvement in the affair, which has deepened its international isolation.
Moscow says two Russian men suspected by British authorities, captured on surveillance footage near the scene of the poisoning, were innocent tourists visiting Salisbury twice during a weekend trip to Britain. London says that explanation is so far-fetched as to all but prove Russia’s involvement. (rt/ez)