“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

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

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  • John K

    I heard an interview re this on the BBC R4 Today programme early this morning. The BellingCat interviewee was not identified at his request. How bizarre is that?

    • Loftwork

      Chances are it was either Elliot Higgins or Dan Kaszeta. Both have long track records for propping up the State Department/NATO line going back to the alleged Sarin attack in Ghouta, when Bellingcat was Brown Moses. (They changed the name 2 days before the MH-17 shoot down, where again – surprise surprise – they provided dodgy photos to support the Kiev/NATO story.)

  • Jan Brooker

    How come I have to come on this site to get some *journalism*? Investigative journalism seems to have mainly been replaced by *churnalism*.

  • Simon Hodges

    I’m fast coming to the conclusion that Eliot Higgins might very well be the most dangerous person in the world and most likely to start WW3.

    • Tom Welsh

      “I’m fast coming to the conclusion that Eliot Higgins might very well be the most dangerous person in the world and most likely to start WW3”.

      Only because a lot of idiots believe him, and a few very vile malicious people pay and encourage him.

  • bj

    And all of that on the heels of mrs. May’s UN speech.

    One would almost think this Skripal-story is about propaganda, not politics, let alone diplomacy.

    The only thing that still bugs me…. who is this brilliant Elliot Ness^H^H^H^H^H Higgins?

  • JMF

    I think you are right with your tweet:
    “A con trick – people assuming both black and white images are “Chepiga” and thus case proved”
    Why the need for 3 pictures?

  • Steve Hayes

    “The rights of the individual are not prioritised over the state interest in Russia.” Craig, you are sounding just like the Russophobic political media elite. Other than this Russophobia you apparently have no cause to claim the Boshirov is anyone other than Boshirov.

  • lokyc

    Absolutely. The photo on the left is so obviously the odd one out. But the way they have been presented is misleading. And its an indictment of how inept intelligence services are. GRU agents caught by numerous CCTV. Botched assasination. Sweating on TV. Our own intelligence services couldn’t work out their real identity.
    Bellingcat to the rescue!

  • Laura Southall

    I lined up the three pics from Bellingcat and the one from the TV interview, remarkably the B&W of the so called 2003 passport pic and the one of the TV interview have the same highlights across the forehead, on the ears and either side of the nose. The other B&W pic the so called 2009 also has the same highlight on the tip of the nose as the 2003 pic. On pic the Met released the guy has a blemish just to the right side of central on his forehead, this is also replicated (a lot fainter) on the 2009 image. I would guess these pics are a manipulated mishmash of TV grabs and the met pic

    • Borncynical


      I agree with your conclusion and have commented to this effect on page 3. I confessed there that I hadn’t read through all the comments so acknowledged that someone else may have picked up on the possibility of photo manipulation, and I have just read your comments confirming this! Basically the person in image one doesn’t exist as shown in the photo.

    • craig Post author

      I haven’t looked at Squonk in months, probably years, Trowbridge. But if you came to similar conclusions, well done. Feel free to post a link.

      • Trowbridge H. Ford

        I have had so many posts on excesses by former Hiomr Secretary Theresa May, now the PM, and Ml8 ignored or deleted here and on Squonk that I have resorted to simple conclusions

  • Mark John Maguire

    Regardless of whether the facial recognition software lines up, Boshirov and Chepiga are certainly one and the same. The really telling features for me are the earlobes, the structure of the nose and the eyes and other minor details which put the matter (for me at least) beyond any doubt. I would like very much for it not to be so – I wrote numerous articles myself on the Salisbury poisoning a few months back and always believed that Russia had no part in this matter. That said, there is an overwhelming question which has puzzled me since the initial identification of the 2 men took place: this is a small world and almost the entire world has now seen these 2 familiar faces…these men must be recognised by hundreds of colleagues, by school friends, neighbours and casual acquaintances – why then has no-one come forward and declared that “this is my friend so-and-so”? It would resolve the matter of identity very quickly indeed.

    Of course, identifying these men as GRU officers does not implicate them in the poisoning of Skripal. It has seemed to me that both these men were almost certainly Russian Intelligence Officers and that they went to Salisbury for some purpose relating to the Skripals. I cannot believe that this purpose involved an attempt to murder either of them as they were far too open for this and made absolutely no attempt to conceal their presence, their faces or any aspect of their visit. One should also not lose sight of the fact that their visit coincided with that of Yulia, that Skripal appears to have been involved in the Trump dossier and that he had become a huge liability to Western Intelligence. There are many coincidences in this case and it may be that the presence of these 2 Russian Intelligence officers was used as a perfect cover to remove the embarrassment of Skripal. It is also worth noting that the Skripals have been spirited away and have not been seen in any meaningful way since they were taken ill in March. The only contact permitted has been under the most controlled and rigorous circumstances. Since March this year, no friends, relatives diplomatic or independent people have been allowed access to them. They are, in every possible sense of the word, prisoners. Why?

    • bj

      it may be that the presence of these 2 Russian Intelligence officers was used as a perfect cover to remove the embarrassment of Skripal.

      Nice, how you buried an unsubstantiated premise in that long sentence.

    • Monster

      Good analysis. But I worry about DS Nick Bailey and family. How can the state dispose of a complete family, who are well known to their neighbours, friends and school. Little wonder Salisbury citizens, pub and restaurant employees and Salisbury hospital staff are silent about the whole affair.

    • Igor P.P.

      Bear in mind that these are notably typical Russian faces. That is, there’s lot of people with similar features in Russia, but relatively few elsewhere. This should affect how you perceive similarity: talk about Chinese people looking the same to us non-Asians, just to a lesser extent.

      To me, the eyes are much wider on the left photo. The the eyebrow shape is also different: round arcs on the left one, but a broken arcs on the other two.

      • bj

        these are notably typical Russian faces

        Are they Russian?
        Are they typical Russian?
        Are they notably typical Russian?

    • MJ

      “The really telling features for me are the earlobes, the structure of the nose and the eyes and other minor details which put the matter (for me at least) beyond any doubt”

      Righto. QED!

    • Yeah, Right

      “The really telling features for me are the earlobes”

      The first two photos have clearly been outlined and cropped, so the earlobes mean nothing.

  • Rob Royston

    The right and centre faces have moles in the same places, the left cheek and above the left eye. The guy on the left has neither.

  • Tom Welsh

    What a long spiel just to arrive at the obvious commonplace conclusion that Elliott Higgins lies for money.

  • Simon Hodges

    If these are not the same person then it will be simple for Putin to produce the real Chepiga in order to prove it one way or the other.

    • Tom Welsh

      Mr Putin has real work to do – he gets through a remarkable amount of it, mostly to do with improving life for Russians and saving them from the frenzied attempts of Western governments to harm them.

      He has no need to pay the slightest attention to you or any other hysterical Westerners.

      • Simon Hodges

        Pretty offensive reaction to come out of reading a single sentence. Putin might be busy but it would be worth his time to expose Higgins and Bellingcat as a fraud.

        • Tom Welsh

          “Hysterical” is certainly hyperbole, and may be offensive – in which case I apologise.

          I was reacting to the strange implication that Mr Putin should care in the least what Westerners say or think about him. Given that thousands of people, and perhaps billions of dollars, are being employed to blacken their names regardless of what they do or any other mere facts, there is no point in their trying to defend themselves.

          • Charles Bostock


            All the points you make could apply equally well to PM Netanyahu and the State of Israel, couldn’t they.

          • bj


            No they couldn’t.

            Netanyahu and the State of Israel care a lot what the US thinks.
            They coudn’t survive without their handouts.

        • bj

          Putin is a pragmatist.

          Like Tom Welsh says, he has other things to do than sing to the tunes of hysterical neurosis suffering Theresa and her clown troupe.

        • Ray Raven

          Offensive reaction ?
          My, oh my; how sensitive some people are.
          Surely Putin has better things to do than chase shadows thrown up by the west.
          Bellingcrap does a good enuff job of indicating its own fradulent nature. It’s the western MSM that believes Bellingcrap’s BS; and as Putin is the designated enemy, nothing he says will sway the MSM, so why waste time and effort.

    • Yeah, Right

      True enough, I suppose.

      Mind you, Putin isn’t God Emperor Of The World, nor does he possess a teleportation machine.

      The Russians were commendably quick to produce Boshirov and Petrov for the TV screen, but even then it took a few days to get that together. Give him some slack, but don’t be at all surprised if Putin does exactly what you suggest.

  • David

    Computers are really bad at playing spot the similarity and cant really be relied on for burden of proof. The human eye is much more adept at this type of work. They do look similar, remarkably so in fact, but that doesn’t make them the same person. The first picture does look like the head is slightly inclined backwards, which may make the nose appear shorter, its also possible that time has taken its toll, certain parts of the body tend the continue growing as we get older.

    I’ve always been convinced that this was a Russian operation, I’ve also been convinced that the British Government doesn’t really know exactly what happened or how. It may have been these two, or maybe these two simply delivered the agent to a sleeper, or maybe these two were deliberately sent in knowing they would be identified but not involved in order to confuse the issue and create a degree of doubt.

    Simple fact is….. its all guess work, the only people who really know live in the Kremlin and they wont tell us 🙂

    • Tom Welsh

      Well, of course they bloody well look similar – those pictures were deliberately selected from a very large collection by someone looking specifically for the closest possible resemblance.

      For the second time in two days I have occasion to quote Fred Hoyle’s brilliant SF novel “The Black Cloud”.

      ‘There was a derisive laugh from Alexandrov.
      “Bloody argument,” he asserted.
      “What d’you mean ‘bloody argument?”
      “Invent bloody argument, like this. Golfer hits ball. Ball lands on tuft of grass – so. Probability ball landed on tuft very small, very very small. Million other tufts for ball to land on. Probability very small, very very very small. So golfer did not hit ball, ball deliberately guided on tuft. Is bloody argument. Yes? Like Weichart’s argument”‘.

    • N_

      Great first paragraph, David.

      But it’s unlikely that any intelligence agency, whether British or Russian or other, knows the complete story of exactly what happened and is happening.

    • bj

      They look similar because that’s the criterion the photo was selected on.

      Don’t fall for circular reasoning.

  • kashmiri

    Glad to see Craig that you no longer claim the two were just some Russian tourists who travelled 2,000 miles to see some uninspiring local church and got stopped at the last moment by 10in of snow. As someone who spent considerable time in the tourism industry, I can assert: they were unlikely to be.

    Also – no, I do not think British secret services would not intentionally “out” a civilian tourist, because that would get them landed nowhere rather quickly. So, it’s a bigger game here. Maybe the pair were not the assailants. Maybe they had a different role to play, even one unrelated to the Skripals. But things clearly don’t add up here and the involvement of highest state actors is obvious on both sides.

    As to facial recognition, I look forward to hearing the view of Professor Black.

    Your attacks against unrelated issues with Bellingcat, etc., are a hallmark of association fallacy. As association fallacies are frequently used in crude propaganda, I’d be very pleased if they were absent from your blog.

    • Tom Welsh

      “As someone who spent considerable time in the tourism industry, I can assert: they were unlikely to be”.

      As someone who – you allege – spent considerable time in the tourism industry, would it be too much to ask of you to provide some actual reasons for your assertion?

      Mrs May says that some things are “highly likely”. You say that other things are “unlikely”. I think that both your and Mrs May’s remarks are of little or no evidential value, and disturbingly similar in tone.

    • SA

      “Your attacks against unrelated issues with Bellingcat, etc., are a hallmark of association fallacy. As association fallacies are frequently used in crude propaganda, I’d be very pleased if they were absent from your blog.”

      If a source is known to be a propaganda source and unreliable that would influence your views of their report, no?
      If we use your argument we can then say that just because Al Qaeda has performed terrorist atrocities in the past and would be an association fallacy to conclude that they are also committing terrorist activity in Syria and they are really just moderate rebels.

      • kashmiri

        @Tom: Based on my experience I can’t fathom a bonafide tourist who has never been to the UK but after landing in London does not bother to see the capital – its museums, art galleries, etc.; especially when proclaiming interest in art. But instead heads straight to a small town hours away, twice, and then immediately leaves the country. No, it is not a typical behaviour of people on a leisure trip.

        @SA: “I think he lies all the time because I don’t trust his employer”. Fine in everyday life. Wrong in serious research. Some extremely credible information can be found even in the Fox News or Komsomolskaya Pravda.

        • Tom Welsh

          There is a great danger of assuming that other people think and feel the same as you do. Personally, if I were visiting a foreign country I would avoid huge metropolises such as London like the plague – with their crime, noise, pollution and superficial popular culture. I might very well head for some of the country’s genuine artistic, archaeological and historical high spots.

          No matter how extensive your experience with tourism, you cannot be certain of the tastes and motivation of individuals who may not be typical tourists at all. (I have travelled a lot in various countries, but I would never consider myself a tourist).

          • kashmiri

            Yes, and you really believe Tom that the two came to the UK for quiet holidays in the countryside…. of 48 hours, lollll! All while making sure they spend not a single night in the countryside but travel 3 hours to reach the metropolis (despite having nothing to do there). And the fact that an ex-Russian agent was almost murdered there that night is nothing but a conincidence, lol. As we know, hundreds of Russians flock to Salisbury every week…

            Interesting theory.

            Don’t forget that it was possible to trace the pair’s movements with great precision based on their mobile phone signal (these were urban areas with multiple BTS’es, and law requires storage of data for 1 year). Unless the guys didn’t use mobile phones (strange tourists would they be, isn’t it?).

            I am quite satisfied with the statement that the two did not spend their precious hours at an international trip, for which getting a visa is already a challenge, to explore the artistic wealth of… Salisbury.

        • SA

          “I think he lies all the time because I don’t trust his employer”.
          Typical strawman. Where did I say that? You have made something up and answered your own question. To spell it out for you, Bellingcat uses false methodology, has always done so, and with proof of thier unreliability, and continue to use unreliable and unverifiable methodology. You cannot use scientific methodology to refute such methodology much as you cannot refute creationism by using scientific argument.

  • Yeah, Right

    Craig is perfectly correct to point out that the **only** link that Eliot Higgins has between Chepiga and Boshirov are those three passport photos. Everything else is just local colour about Chepiga, the man, the multi-gonged legend.

    (And can someone explain to me how anyone can be an “honorary Hero of the Russian Federation”?).

    But another thing that struck me is that bizarre “Photo of DVOKU graduates on assignment in Chechnya, undated” which contains a photo that Higgins accepts is very probably not “Chepiga”.

    At the time I thought: Huh? If you don’t think it’s him then why include the photo?

    But on reflection: Higgins has to explain how he first stumbled came across the name “Chepiga”, and the only way he can get there is by typing the words “DVOKU”, “Chechnya” and “Hero of the Russian Federation” into a search engine and out pops that name. Huzzah!!!!

    Q: So what led him to chose *those* three words/phrases?
    A: That serendipitous photo.

    A photo of someone who isn’t the guy that Higgins is looking for but which (and how lucky is this?) just happens to prick his interest in just those words that will spit out the name “Chepiga”.

    Sorry, I don’t believe a word of it.

    I am certain that Higgins started with that passport photo and then had to work his way backwards to explain how he got his hands on it.

      • Yeah, Right

        No, it’s not that Higgins *says* it is a passport photo of Chepiga but that he was *told* that.

        I do not think there is very much “investigative” work of Higgins in that article.
        Stenography, sure, in abundance, but actual “investigating”, no, little to none.

    • Tom Welsh

      Perhaps we need a law compelling all tweets sent by active politicians to be archived for public reference, whether they attempt to delete them or not.

    • bj

      “Don’t-tell-them-your-name,-Pike” Williamson is the clown of service.

      In a couple of years tops, no one will remember him.

  • MJ

    There’s no way the one on the left is the same person. The middle one might just be the same guy as the one on the right.

  • Russell

    Fantastic work. What seems strange isn’t how Bellingcat, who is supposedly a lone blogger, has access to the phone numbers of GRU officers who are happy to talk to a Western blogger. That’s serious firepower and surely, if true, is being fed to him by MI6 or CIA. That doesn’t make him evil but it does indicate that his operation is not and never has been that of a lone blogger.

  • N_

    I did all three pairwise comparisons at pictriev.com and got these results:

    1~2: 72%
    1~3: 69%
    2~3: 86%

    The metric is not supposed to be probability, just a measure of similarity. Those figures make 1 stand out from the others, but not by much. I compared two photos of myself, one from 2010 and one from 2017, and got a similarity of 55%. The man in 1 is young, maybe around 20 years old, much younger than the man in 3. Similarity scores of 72% and 69% are higher than I got for two photos of myself taken only 7 years apart.

    The man in 1 has his head at an upward pointing angle, unlike the man in 2 and 3. That will multiply the interpupillary distance to pupil-above-nose-tip ratio by something close to the cosine of that angle. To take it from 0.75 to 0.68 an angle of 25 degrees would be required. Agreed it doesn’t look to be that big.

    But still. Enough of this mechanical stuff. Humans are good at spotting whether a person is the same person, assuming they’re not wearing disguise. Expert witnesses are good at telling lies and talking bullshit for money. All three photos look to me to be of the same man. The eyes in particular are very similar in all three photos.

    There should be absolutely no doubt that at least one intelligence agency is involved in this photograph story.

    I would take what Bellingcat say about their methodology with a Siberian mine’s worth of salt. The question remains: what is the provenance of the first photograph? THAT is the weakness here. The photographs DO seem to be of the same man. But is the man in the first photograph Anatoliy Chepiga?

    Meanwhile, Theresa May’s conference speech approaches…

    • S

      When presented with two random people, I can largely tell whether they are the same. But when presented with what must have been 1000s of random people, and I have a strong incentive to find a match, should I be trusted? After all this is a job for a trained expert, not a citizen journalist. It is really bizarre that the media is reporting this without question.

      • N_

        Good question. Or it’s not whether the person should be trusted, but how likely they’d be to come up with such a close match in a pool of a given size. The number of people graduating from the Rokossovksy Command Academy between 2001 and 2003 probably wasn’t several thousand. But this is all premised on believing what Higgins says about his methodology, and why should we do that?

        • S

          Yes, the question is perhaps about believing the methodology. And someone who is expert on these matters must know the chance of being able to find a face that served in the Russian military over a 5 year window that looks a bit like someone else. These are things that we should be able to trust our media to report to us.

        • Yeah, Right

          “But this is all premised on believing what Higgins says about his methodology, and why should we do that?”

          Very true, and it is the reason why Higgins has to spend time talking about the “Photo of DVOKU graduates on assignment in Chechnya, undated” even though he accepts that nobody in that photo is of any interest.

          He needs that photo to justify why he chose to type just the right combination of words/phrases into a search engine to spit out the name “Chepiga”.

          Could have been any other combination of words and he’d dead-end but, noooooo, Higgins intuited exactly the search terms he needed based on…. well, magic.

          That sequence in his article is utterly unbelievable, and stands out like a sore thumb.

          But he needs it to be there because otherwise his deductive method would require us to accept an impossible leap of faith to get him to a “Volunteer Union website, which described a certain Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga as linked to all three search terms”

          Q: But where did Higgins pluck those “three search terms”?
          A: He was staring at a photo of someone who isn’t the person he was looking for, and those three search terms just appeared before his eyes like… magic.

          Give. Me. A. Break.

          Higgins is not telling the truth. He was handed that photo from the get-go, and then had to concoct a fairy-tale to explain how he came by that photograph by his own investigative efforts.

          Hence the preposterous notion that he can stare at that photo and intuit from it that he can crack this case wide open, but only if he types the search items “DVOKU”, “Chechnya” and “Hero of the Russian Federation” into Google.

    • Jiusito

      If the man on the left has his head tilted upwards compared with the other two, how come he seems to have more of the makings of a slight double chin? That would suggest, if anything, a head tilted down.

  • AN

    “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.”

    Out of interest, what similarity percentage and change of being the same person does Betaface give the two confirmed “Boshirov” pictures (the middle one and the one on the right)?

    • N_

      @AN – Why not play at pictriev.com and see what similarity scores you get for two photos of the same person separated by several years?

  • SA

    If we hear the interview of Bob Seely on Radio 4 we should all shudder, because we will all be labelled as facilitating Russian propaganda and probably be censored.

  • Loftwork

    I’m getting the feeling this is a distraction like the Gatwick photo timestamps. The problem is that A and B have the combined intelligence of a short fencepost. There were smarter mob guys on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. The only thing either of them was decorated for was remembering to tie his shoelaces. Were they sent on a job? Yes, because they weren’t tourists. They were low-ranking operatives, probably told to mind Yulia. They were dumped in a sleazy hotel with (as CM pointed out) a bathroom down the hall, They checked on her once so they could claim their expenses and left ASAP. Meanwhile, MI5 needed a cover story and a troll of UK visas produced the two dumbest clucks in history, except you couldn’t just say you gave them a visa under the visiting moron plan. So a certain coyness about the visa application. When everything blew up, the real GRU said ‘the idiots were freelancing so throw them under the bus’. Hence the remarkable TV interview of two ex-agents realising they’d been thrown under the bus. Back in the real world, the GRU is wondering if it has any vacancies for guards at the Siberian salt mines, Mossad is rolling on the floor lauging, and the script consultants from “Days of Our Lives” are working on new episodes of “Desperately Seeking Sergei” for UK Spook Productions.

    • N_

      When everything blew up, the real GRU said ‘the idiots were freelancing so throw them under the bus’.

      The real GRU would never say anything like that.
      Why do you think almost all former SAS men are so loyal to the Regiment?

      • Loftwork

        They were under no compunction to release agents for a TV interview. If you do not think there was any GRU connection, fine by me. I’m trying to make a GRU connection fit and pointing out that it is, at best, illogical.

  • Dungroanin

    Who is the bellend?

    “Higgins is from Leicester in the UK, born in 1979, He never finished college, dropping out of the Southampton Institute of Higher Education. When asked for interview what he studied at university, his answer was , “Media . . . I think.”

    He once worked as payments officer at a women’s underwear company. (“I’m more interested in lingerie than asylum seekers,”). In 2012, the hardcore online gamer (a World of Warcraft addict), Higgins was laid off from his job as an administrator at a non-profit providing housing for asylum seekers, turns to blogging, under the pseudonym ‘Brown Moses‘, from a Frank Zappa track.

    Сredited, by some, with uncovering chemical weapons in Syria in 2013. Whether he actually did this, is the subject of debate (what he is documented as doing is agreeing to suppress information that the rebels had chemical weapons, ….”

    A lot more of that from another independent journo who ran over the bellend cat a few years ago at :

    Perhaps someone can put a picture of the bellend and bosh in the software to see how close they resemble each other?

    An Atlantic council stooge being used by the tory govt as evidence? The real police must be spitting feathers.

    • duplicitousdemocracy

      Higgins has 6 people working for him. He has an office in Leicester that he never visits. He says it’s simply a PO box (surely a PO box would be much cheaper?). He charges $2.5 K for a five day ‘workshop’ and he claims to have to increase the frequency of these events to meet demand.
      Higgins is clearly a personality created by some sort of intelligence service and that’s why they have Dan Kaszeta looking after him.
      Quote: Daniel Kaszeta has over twenty years of diverse experience in the defense and security sectors with experience in the field of chemical, biological, radiological, …
      If Higgins appears to be a bit gormless it’s because he is. An utter failure up to his early thirties, Higgins was the perfect slightly gawky looking bloke to front this operation.

  • James Kennedy

    Pictriev & Betaface doesn’t work on anyone.
    I’ve tried it on my past two passport photos and it doesn’t recognise me as being the same person either.

    If you use it to disprove a theory, you might want to check it can do the job you want it to do first.

  • Jones

    Photo on left has different facial features to the two photos on right, and there is only six years difference between the photo on left (2003) and middle photo (2009), nose wider by eyes on left, forehead wider and face more v shaped on left, eyebrows rounder on left while arched on right, top front tooth showing with mouth slightly open on left photo but in RT interview top teeth never show when Boshirov is talking and only his bottom teeth ever show (incidentally RT interview good for face comparison). Photo on left is not same person as the two right photos.

    Another thing is ‘height’, in video of Boshirov/Petrov ”window shopping” there is a third guy who looks very tall and Boshirov is much smaller (best judged when third guy and Petrov appear at same place in doorway), Boshirov appears same height as person (woman?) walking behind him, yet in the ‘group’ photograph on Bellingcat site they say right-most person ‘might’ be Boshirov and in comparison to other comrades he looks much taller than he does on window shopping video (just a personal observation which could be wholly wrong but Chepiga may be taller than Boshirov)).

    I agree the inscription on memorial wall is out of line, and it is the only one which is out of line.

  • James Kennedy

    The Beta face line are garbage BTW. Half of the colour pictures chin is cut off.

    I’m calling this out as BS.

    The research Craig has done here is lazy at best.
    I mean – “Betaface.com, which runs industry standard software” – what exactly does that mean? I’m pretty sure they won’t be willing to divulge their algorithms to the public.

    Come on Craig, Give us two different pictures of you that it does recognise.

    • Greg Park

      “I’m calling this out as BS”
      That’s what the British government have effectively done with this latest Bellingcat “revelation.”

  • Jeremn

    I think we should slash the budget of the security services. Lone bloggers can do the work for much less. As for the police, they have been made to look like foolish plods by this squad of face recognition experts.

    If I worked for the UK security services or the police I would be rather put out by this group of amateurs seizing all the glory whilst my hard work never gets to see the limelight. On the other hand, if they screw up, I get to keep my pension.

    I leave it to Elena to throw some light on this new revelation:


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