“Boshirov” is probably not “Chepiga”. But he is also not “Boshirov”. 994

UPDATE: The Kommersant Evidence
Kommersant publishes interviews with people from Chepiga’s home village. The article makes clear he has not been seen there for many years. It states that opinions differ on whether Chepiga is Boshirov. One woman says she recognised Boshirov as Chepiga when he appeared on TV, especially the dark eyes, though she had not seen him since school. Another woman states it is not Chepiga as when she last saw him ten years ago he was already pretty bald, and he has a more open face, although the eyes are similarly brown.

Naturally mainstream media journalists are tweeting and publishing the man’s evidence and leaving out the woman’s evidence.

But the Kommersant article gives them a bigger challenge. Kommersant is owned by close Putin political ally, Putin’s former student flatmate, Chariman of Gazprominvestholdings and the UK’s richest resident, Alisher Usmanov. That Russia’s most authoritative paper, with ownership very close to Putin, is printing such open and honest reporting rather belies the “Russia is a dictatorship” narrative. And unlike the Guardian and BBC websites, on Kommersant website ordinary Russians can post freely their views on the case, and are.

One thing this does stand up is that Chepiga definitely exists.

The evidence mounts that Russia is not telling the truth about “Boshirov” and “Petrov”. If those were real identities, they would have been substantiated in depth by now. As we know of Yulia Skripal’s boyfriend, cat, cousin and grandmother, real depth on the lives and milieu of “Boshirov” and “Petrov” would be got out. It is plainly in the interests of Russia’s state and its oligarchy to establish that they truly exist, and concern for the privacy of individuals would be outweighed by that. The rights of the individual are not prioritised over the state interest in Russia.

But equally the identification of “Boshirov” with “Colonel Chepiga” is a nonsense.

The problem is with Bellingcat’s methodology. They did not start with any prior intelligence that “Chepiga” is “Boshirov”. They rather allegedly searched databases of GRU operatives of about the right age, then trawled photos in yearbooks of them until they found one that looked a bit like “Boshirov”. And guess what? It looks a bit like “Boshirov”. If you ignore the substantially different skull shape and nose.

Only the picture on the left is Chepiga. The two on the right are from “Boshirov’s” Russian passport application file, and the photo of “Boshirov” issued by Scotland Yard.

Like almost the entire internet, I assumed both black and white photos were from Chepiga’s files, and was willing to admit the identification of Chepiga with “Boshirov” as valid. But once you understand is that – as Bellingcat confirm if you read it closely – only the photo on the left is Chepiga, you start to ask questions.

The two guys on the right and the centre are undoubtedly the same person. But is the guy on the left the same, but younger?

Betaface.com, which runs industry standard software, gives the faces an 83% similarity, putting the probability of them being the same person at 2.8%.

By comparison it gives me a 72% identity with Chepiga and a 2.1% chance of being him.

There is a superficial resemblance. But if you take the standard ratios used for facial recognition, you get a very different story. If you draw a line between the centre of the pupils of the two guys centre and right, and then take a perpendicular from that line to the tip of the nose, you get a key ratio. The two on the right both have a ratio of 100:75, which is unsurprising since they are the same person. The one on the left has a ratio of 100:68, which is very different.

To put that more simply, his nose is much shorter, and less certainly his eyes are further apart.

It is possible this could happen in photos but it still be the same person. The head would have to be tilted backward or forward at quite a sharp angle to alter these ratios, which does not seem to be the case. The camera could be positioned substantially above or below the subject, again not apparently the case. And the photo could be resized with height and width ratios changed. That would hard to detect.

But the three white dots across the bottom of the nose are particularly compelling (the middle one largely obscured by a red dot in the Chepiga photo). They illustrate that Chepiga has a snub nose and Boshirov something of a hook. Again, the software is reinforcing what they eye can plainly see.

However, there are also other ratios that are different. Chepiga has a narrower mouth compared to the distance between the pupils than the two photos of “Boshirov”, and that is measured on the same plane. The difference is 100-80 compared to 100-88. It is a ratio that can be changed by facial expression, but this does not seem to be the case here.

Professor Dame Sue Black of the University of Dundee is the world’s leading expert in facial forensic reconstruction. I once spent a fascinating lunch sitting next to her, while I was Rector. I shall contact her for her view on whether the guy on the left is the same person, and if she is kind enough to give me an opinion, I shall pass it on to you unadulterated.

This website is less definitive, but gives a nice clear result, and you can repeat it yourself without having to subscribe (unlike Betaface.com).

Again for comparison, I tried two photos of myself 12 years apart and got “from nearly the same person”.

It is worth repeating that the only evidence that Chepiga is Boshirov offered by Bellingcat is this photo. The rest of their article simply attempts to establish Chepiga’s career.

This is gross hypocrisy by Bellingcat, who have argued that scores of photos of White Helmets being Jihadi fighters are not valid evidence because you cannot safely recognise faces from photographs.

Yet Higgins now claims his facial identification of Chepiga as Boshirov as “definitive” and “conclusive”, despite the absence of moles, scars and blemishes. Higgins stands exposed as a quite disgusting hypocrite. Let me go further. I do not believe that Higgins did not take the elementary step of running facial recognition technology over the photos, and I believe he is hiding the results from you. Is it not also astonishing that the mainstream media have not done this simple test?

The bulk of the Bellingcat article is just trying to prove the reality of the existence of Chepiga. This is hard to evaluate, but as the evidence to link him to “Boshirov” is non-existent, is a different argument. Having set out to find a GRU officer of the same age who looks a bit like “Boshirov”, they trumpet repeatedly the fact that Chepiga is about the same age as evidence, in a crass display of circular argument.

This unofficial website does indeed name Chepiga as a Hero of the Russian Federation and recipient of 20 awards, as Bellingcat claims. But it is impossible to know if it is authentic, and by contrast there is no Chepiga on the official list of Heroes of the Russian Federation, for the stated 2014 or for any other year, which Bellingcat fail to mention. Their other documents and anonymous sources are unverifiable.

The photo of the military school honours arch, with Chepiga added right at the end and not quite in line, looks to me very suspect. My surmise so far would be that most likely Bellingcat’s source of supply is Ukrainian, and trying to tie the Skripal affair into the Ukrainian civil war via Chepiga.

My view of the most likely explanation on presently available evidence is this:

Boshirov is not Boshirov, and the Russian Government are lying.
Boshirov is not Chepiga, and Bellingcat are lying.
The whole Skripal novichok story still does not hang together, and the British government are lying.

I will continue to form my opinions as further evidence becomes available.

UPDATE Incredibly, at 13.15 on 27 September the BBC TV News ran the story showing only the two photos of “Boshirov”, which of course are the same person, and not showing the photo of Chepiga at all!

BBC News at One

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

994 thoughts on ““Boshirov” is probably not “Chepiga”. But he is also not “Boshirov”.

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    • Clark

      Yes. Very interesting. On the History, look at edits 07:09, 29 September 2018; 15:04, 28 September 2018; 13:35, 28 September 2018 – greyed out, struck through, “edit summary removed”, and (cur | prev) links deactivated. This makes it impossible to see the content that was added and then removed. I’ve never seen Wikipedia’s transparency negated before.

      The IP that made those edits has been blocked. It also edited the pages of Sergey Chemezov and Andrey Kostin:


  • Sharp Ears

    Ref Chepiga.

    ‘A BBC team travelled some 5,000 miles east of Moscow to the village of Beryozovka, where Anatoliy Chepiga grew up, close to Russia’s border with China.’

    Russian spy poisoning: Woman ‘identifies’ suspect as Anatoliy Chepiga – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-45694123
    7hrs ago
    Sarah Rainsford and Will Vernon

    That is how the licence fees are used.

    • Dungroanin

      And the Washington post!

      Terrible place Russia – all these ‘independent’ western media happily traipsng around deepest Russia looking for their secret service killers.

      While our media don’t get any farther interviewing eye witnesses, victims, investigators, their own flunky colleagues …Wtf?

      The MSM make it impossible for any rational person to believe anything they say with their hypocrisy.

    • Charles Bostock

      “‘A BBC team travelled some 5,000 miles east of Moscow to the village of Beryozovka, where Anatoliy Chepiga grew up, close to Russia’s border with China.’……That is how the licence fees are used.”

      How does the above criticism (it appears to be a criticism) square with frequent complaints that the BBC should do more to investigate current stories rather than just relaying the “official line”?

      • SA

        It would be nice if they did an investigation closer to whom and asked a simple question: Where is Sergei Skripal?

    • TJ

      Notice the quotes around ‘identifies’ and she is conveniently anonymous, reminds me of all those anonymous sources regarding Iraqs WMDs that all turned out to be lies.

      • Isa

        Actually Craig has an update in this blog entry regarding Kommersant that summarises what witnesses said .

  • Grubbie

    Are you crazy?You thought it was the right guy until you asked a computer?The photo issued by Scotland yard can only have come from his passport, surely?So, the 2 on the right are both official Russian government passport photos passport photos issued to the same person.You are obviously correct in saying that its not much of a sports nutrition business if no one has even heard of you.Unsuccessful businesses try even harder for publicity.

    • SA

      The style of this article suggests that it was written by a 15 year old:
      “The drill at Salisbury Plain culminated in an attack by the Green Berets on a simulated storage facility for sarin – the deadly nerve agent allegedly used by Syrian forces earlier this month.

      Intelligence experts fear jihadis will bring sarin back to Britain from war-torn Syria, where it is said to be relatively easy to obtain after six years of civil war.”

      Earlier this month, huge bombs containing sarin were dropped on the village of Khan Sheikhoun, killing at least 86 people and injuring hundreds more.”

      Sarin relatively easy to obtain in the bazaar and then there is this huge sarin bomb that only killed 86 people apparently (the ‘official’ figures are 58) which probably far less than an ordinary huge bomb would kill.

    • Rowan

      Note they are writing about the Feb 2017 exercise. That was what briefly misled me into thinking there had not also been one this March. We had better assume they are going to be annual (until we are nuked that is).

  • Crispa

    A satirical piece a couple of days ago in Pravda that has made me smile.
    “White Helmets in the UK: ‘Brave individuals’ to breathe new life in Salisbury drama”
    Having been evacuated from Syria, some of White Helmets filmmakers may settle in the UK and thus bring new details to the story about Salisbury poisoners. (As foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt stated). “I am proud that the UK is resettling these brave individuals and their families and giving them the opportunity to rebuild their lives here. The actions of the White Helmets demonstrate true modern day heroism. They are rightly respected for their courageous, life-saving work and have previously been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. We welcome the first White Helmets to be resettled in the UK,”
    See more at http://www.pravdareport.com/world/asia/syria/28-09-2018/141688-white_helmets-0/

  • Sharp Ears

    Kommersant. Usmanov.

    My favourite cartoon.
    Usmanov · All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

    ‘Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov sent one letter to Fasthosts, a Gloucester-based hosting company, alleging defamation and got Craig Murray’s website taken down, and along with it a stack of others, including that of Tory Mayoral candidate Boris Johnson.

    A friend of Putin, Usmanov has form in the UK, having demanded similar censorship from Arsenal Bulletin Boards and fan blogs (he’s trying to buy the Football Club) and having made requests to Fasthosts to insert editorial changes to Murray’s site previously.

    His UK legal firm, the appropriately named Schillings, also has form. They are “the celebrity defamation firm par excellence”, Keira Knightley and Britney Spears amongst their other, more attractive, clients. In this case, they have even threated under ‘copyright’ bloggers who’ve published their legal letters.’




    I often think of Usmanov inside his mansion bordering the river Wey at Ripley when I am out walking. It is Getty’s old residence, Sutton Place.. The estate is surrounded with barbed wire fences and notices warning of guard dogs. When I was practice manager at a local vets, we used to have the owner of this guard dog firm as a client. I love dogs but I would not have approached any of them even though they were muzzled and on leashes when brought in for treatment.

  • Jones

    the clue to a general election will be the sudden interest in tories promising the public lots of goodies after years of treating them with contempt, just like the parents who bribe children throwing a tantrum with sweets.

  • Sharp Ears

    From a cold war to a real war. Is that what the US wants? Their representative Mr Zinke (sic) speaks.

    ‘US could use Navy for ‘blockade’ to hamper Russian energy exports – Interior Secretary
    Published time: 30 Sep, 2018 10:54

    US and UK navy ships are seen conducting Mine Countermeasures Exercise (MCMEX) taking place at Arabian Sea, September 10, 2018. ©Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters

    Washington can “if necessary” resort to its Navy to prevent Russian energy hitting the markets, including in the Middle East, US Internal Secretary Ryan Zinke has revealed, as cited by Washington Examiner.

    Zinke alleged that Russia’s engagement in Syria – notably, where it is operating at the invitation of the legitimate government – is a pretext to explore new energy markets. “I believe the reason they are in the Middle East is they want to broker energy just like they do in eastern Europe, the southern belly of Europe,” he has reportedly said.

    [Replacing Russian gas with American LNG would be ‘absolutely ridiculous’ – expert to RT] linked within

    And, according to to the official, there are ways and means to tackle it.

    “The United States has that ability, with our Navy, to make sure the sea lanes are open, and, if necessary, to blockade … to make sure that their energy does not go to market,” he said. Zinke was addressing the attendees of the event hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance, a non-profit group which styles itself as the “voice of the energy consumer” in the US. He went to compare Washington’s approaches to dealing with Russia and Iran, noting that they are effectively the same.

    Gaia must beware of Zinke. He will destroy whatever suits his purpose. The land. The sky. The air. The birds. The world?

    Ryan Zinke’s War on the Interior
    From gutting the Endangered Species Act to opening off-shore drilling – inside the Trump administration’s crusade to hand America’s public lands to the fossil-fuel industry
    23rd July 2018

    • Yeah, Right

      Naval blockade is governed by International Humanitarian Law i.e. The Rules of War.

      This is explicitly stated in the very title of the authoritative “San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994”, where naval blockades are governed by Articles 93 – 104.

      Note the reference to “Armed Conflicts at Sea”.

      This means that the very act of declaring a blockade is a declaration that you have begun an armed conflict with the state that you are blockading. That is axiomatic, since absent such an armed conflict there is no legal underpinning to your blockade, and your action is merely brigandry on the high seas.

      I would suggest that US Internal Secretary Ryan Zinke’s bolshiness will last exactly as long as it will take Mad Dog Matthis to pin him up against a wall and snarl words to the effect that he is a pencil-dicked f**kwit who’s bottomless stupidity will get them all killed.

        • Yeah, Right

          In the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Kennedy was told in no uncertain terms that calling it a “blockade” meant he was starting a war. So he came up with the fiction of a “quarantine” instead, as if calling it by another name changed what it was.

          That’s also the reason why the US Navy allowed the first few soviet ships to pass that “quarantine line” without stopping them – to board them is to make that blockade (a.k.a. quarantine) “effective”, which under International Law means an armed conflict had begun.

          Nobody in the Kennedy Administration was under the slightest delusion about that – to enforce that blockade meant war with the USSR, and that would be the end of all of them.

          The same appears not to be true of the Trump Administration – delusion writ large, with no sign that the crayons are going to be put away any time soon.

  • Patmur

    Excerpt from article yesterday Spiegel Online (German magazine) about the Skripal case and the Mark Urban (of BBC) book on the Skripal case.

    “Urban visited Skripal at home in Salisbury. What he saw – puzzles, a self-built model of the sailing ship HMS “Victory” –, spoke for a stay-at-home, “who had got used to killing time”. Urban does not believe that Skripal has been particularly active since his retirement in 2010. He says that Skripal did not work on the so-called Steele-Dossier, the report on the intimate Russian contacts of US Präsident Donald Trump, which the former Russia Head of MI6 Christopher Steele put together.

    Did Skripal really have nothing to do with the Dossier? That is a fascinating question, because it leads on to a further question: namely, whether Putin’s men wanted to get rid of a man who had something to do with a dossier which was so dangerous for Trump. It is just here that a big yawning hole appears in Urban’s story. He should in order to believably answer the question, have reported more about Skripal’s former handler at MI6. This was Pablo Miller and he regularly met Skripal in Salisbury – and definitely worked for Steele.
    Urban writes not a word about this. He also remains silent about the fact that he himself was a regimental comrade of Pablo Miller. The question of what Skripal has been doing since 2010, must therefore be answered by someone else.

    More is coming out daily about Anatolij Tschepiga alias Ruslan Boshirov and his companion Petrov. On Thursday the newspaper “Kommersant” talked to Tschepiga’s former neighbours. And Roman Dobrochotov, chief editor of “The Insider”, promises for the coming week a new revelation: It is about the British business visa that the two agents received. Apparently Russia’s intelligence service provided assistance – with direct intervention into the work of the British visa centre.

    • Jay

      I think he did, my inclination is these two were sent to make contact and offer an amnesty in exchange for comment. The Russians would then feed this to Trump and England would be in hot water for having themselves directly or indirectly involved in the dossier. Trump would be vindicated as would the Russians and both would re-evaluate who was friend or foe. This is dangerous for England, hence the hysteria and holes in the quickly made narrative.

  • Andrew H

    I’m inclined to agree with all those that think there is a high possibility that Bellingcat are being scammed. Its the standard grift, you are made to believe you have won the lottery ticket, but when things appear to be too good to be true then they are often are. This may mean the Russians are not as incompetent as it appears. I don’t know if the UK passport office keeps all records in a database that is physically connected to the internet (not a good idea), and Russia is supposed to be a cyber-aware state. Even this bit about stamping agents passports with ‘top secret’ seems a little hokey.

    • Blunderbuss

      “I don’t know if the UK passport office keeps all records in a database that is physically connected to the internet (not a good idea)…”

      Nowadays, all computers are physically connected to the internet. They have to be, in order to receive Windows updates. Just a minute, if they weren’t connected to the internet, they would not be at risk of being hacked so they wouldn’t need the updates anyway. Why hasn’t Microsoft thought of that?

      • Andrew H

        Untrue. You are talking about Windows 10, home edition. Microsoft do have other options for businesses/government.

      • Clark

        The Iranian nuclear programme was cracked by Stuxnet despite being isolated from the Internet. The malware was crafted by the US, UK and Israel. It jumped the “air gap” via USB memory stick.

        Windows is still the least secure OS, though Android is catching up. Debian Stable, Red Hat and Centos (all GNU/Linux), and Free BSD are considered among the most secure, I believe, and are popular platforms for the Apache web server.

        • Clark

          It is in fact possible to write uncrackable software. I read of a project to make an uncrackable version of Linux (the Free Software kernel), by validating it with a programme that checks for exploitable code.

          Of course, most hardware has vulnerabilities too, as demonstrated by Spectre and Meltdown. Some hardware is deliberately built with back doors.

          • Andrew H

            Not with current software development methods. To create uncrackable software an entirely different approach would be needed. (Even if you were to get Linux to be uncrackable which for so many reasons isn’t possible it wouldn’t make any of the software running on top of it like a browser/web server/word processor, etc immune to security flaws). We are far closer to landing and living on Mars than to fixing the software problem, and arguably we won’t even begin to think about what could be done until we are bitten by AI.

            I am not sure your claim that Windows is the least secure OS has any merit. One of the most significant bugs in recent memory is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shellshock_(software_bug). This was a Linux bug.

          • Clark

            Thanks for the Shellshock article. Strictly, shouldn’t that be called a bug in Bash rather than in Linux?

            The project I read of was to validate only the kernel itself, ie. Linux in the strict sense – grief, the misapplication of the name “Linux” to encompass any process that Linux runs causes so much confusion. The project was an algorithm which checks that all possible branch outcomes actually land at anticipated branch addresses, thus ensuring that program control could only ever be transferred to trustworthy code.

            But yes, in a practical sense this doesn’t help in general purpose systems. I’m appalled that software such as servers, ssh and dhcp invoke the command interpreter; what a recipe for exploitation! KISS was abandoned long since, or interpreted as meaning “this is simple to write” rather than “this is simple in its mode of operation”.

            “We are far closer to landing and living on Mars than to fixing the software problem”

            Indeed, for general purpose systems. It would probably be better to start from scratch and keep things simple, both software and hardware.

          • Clark

            That seems very odd. Typical GNU/Linux systems boot to a desktop environment with common user applications pre-installed and ready to use. If you want to try again, open a forum and we can work through it. Other readers could join in, too.

  • JCalvertN

    The photo on the left shows a fair-haired person. Boshirov is clearly a dark-haired person.

  • Albert A

    Rhod Sharp’s piece at 4.20 a.m. on radio 5 claimed Bellincat about to name the second tourist after the bbc team in Rossia found a witness, a witness , who verified their first revelation.

    So the Bbc has freedom in Russia to interview ? Whefe are all the Russian interview teams in Salisbury ?

  • Oliver Behrend

    Yes, with respect to the identities, it is difficult to judge so far. But let´s not forget: we all agree the whole Skripal story is fake. We know the May&Johnson company has been lying all the time. We know that Bellingcat is a forgery factory. It´s a bluff, again. Can one imagine the Russian services to be that stupid ? Can one imagine Wladimir Putin to expose his own men to get targeted to a shitstorm by the “qualitity media” and their partners elswhere ? After all, Putin is beyond any doubt an intelligent and loyal person, the May&Johnson company is the opposite.

  • Oto

    >If you draw a line between the centre of the pupils of the two guys centre and right, and then take a perpendicular from that line to the tip of the nose, you get a key ratio. The two on the right both have a ratio of 100:75, which is unsurprising since they are the same person.

    Take a look at your photos at younger age and you will see that nose and ears never stops growing. We all had smaller and more round noses. Do the same comparision with your photos and you will see. It is definitively the same person if you look at the shape of ears and facial expression, eyes are also identical. At the moment AI can’t help match the persons as still human have greater capabiities with higher confidence.

    Can you recognize this person? https://thehill.com/sites/default/files/article_images/screen_shot_2015-02-13_at_5.42.19_pm.png

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