Spy Games 932

Russia has its GRU in addition to its KGB (now FSB and SVR). The UK has its Defence Intelligence in addition to its MI6 and GCHQ. Much less high profile, Defence Intelligence is more analytical than operative – as indeed is GRU, Skripal was an analyst.

Defence Intelligence had its proudest modern moment when it refused to endorse MI6’s pack of lies on Iraqi WMD, and earned the hatred of MI6 and of Blair and Straw as a result. This was confirmed by the Chilcot report which stated that MI6 even actually hid some of the intelligence material from the Defence Intelligence Service to prevent their rubbishing it.

I hope you will forgive me for pointing out that the opposition of the Defence Intelligence to the Blair Dirty Dossier was first revealed in my memoir Murder in Samarkand, a decade before the Chilcot report confirmed it. It was one of the many reasons Straw attempted to block publication, and one of the many things revealed in my memoir – including of course the UK’s complicity in torture and extraordinary rendition – which the government claimed to be untrue, but in due course has been proved to be 100% accurate. As it should be, as Murder in Samarkand only recounts things I personally witnessed first hand.

As this is the last day of Banned Books Week, I hope you might further forgive me (and I know I am pushing it) if I mention my prequel to Murder in Samarkand, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. I view it as a much better book, and I was bitterly disappointed when my publisher, who had bravely defied the government lawyers over Murder in Samarkand, backed down and pulled the publication of The Catholic Orangemen due to libel threats from mercenary commander Tim Spicer. It thus became a Banned Book. I privately printed and sold 1,000 copies, and as technology advanced more recently made it available on print on demand. (I know, Amazon…) But it remains a real regret it has reached so few people. You are welcome to download it entirely free here.
Anyway, after that lengthy advertorial let me get back to the DIS. DIS remain rather more attached to the truth than MI6, so when Defence Minister Gavin Williamson tweeted out a thrilled endorsement of Bellingcat’s work on Colonel Chepiga, DIS urgently advised that he delete it. Which he did.

Which is not to say DIS are sure it is not Chepiga; rather they believe – as would anyone with half a brain – that the Bellingcat photo falls a long way short of proof. The British security services have been unable to stand up the ID with facial recognition technology. The experts are describing the Boshirov/Chepiga identification as “possible”.

I have this information from an impeccable Whitehall source, who told me there is a concern in the security services that runs like this. They genuinely believe Boshirov and Petrov are GRU agents and the would-be assassins. (I judge that my source themself believes the security services really do think this). Bellingcat, while they are sometimes fed security service material, did not in fact get fed the Chepiga material by the CIA or MI6, whether or not through a cutout. The security services are worried the Chepiga ID may be a blind alley fed to Bellingcat’s sources by the FSB. If the UK government endorses it, this could be followed by the Russians producing Chepiga and apparently discrediting the entire British narrative.

Hence the fact no charge has been laid against Chepiga, and the charges are still in the name of “Boshirov”, plus the fact that no British minister or official has named Chepiga, with only the fool Williamson stepping out of line and being slapped down.

Please note I am not endorsing the views and beliefs of the British intelligence services; I am reporting them.

Russia is fascinating at the moment. Komsomolskaya Pravda reports Ministry of Interior identification experts unofficially endorsing the Chepiga/Boshirov identity. Now there is no way these experts in the Ministry of the Interior – who would not be hard for the authorities to single out – would have done that for Komsomolskaya Pravda without an official nod. Either the Russians are indeed egging on the British into a false identification, or some inter-agency rivalry is afoot in Russia. This follows on the very open report in Kommersant – which is very close to Putin – that opinion was divided in Chepiga’s home village.

None of which brings us an awful lot closer to the truth of what happened in Salisbury, which I suspect is a great deal more complicated than any official narrative. But it is a fascinating peek into a shadowy world most people never see inside, with which I was once familiar.

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932 thoughts on “Spy Games

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  • Maxwell

    Wow. Bizarre. Craig, your work on this is the best out there. From day one of the Skripal event . The only ones close IMO and whose work I share on this subject are Off-Guardian.org – what do you think of their summary of the Chepiga situation?

  • Coiseam

    There is no contradiction between the statements:
    1. That the photo given by Bellingcat as “Chepiga” and the photo from “Boshirov’s” passport are one and the same person.
    2. That “Boshirov” as appeared on RT and the Salisbury photos (no videos published, strangely) is not Anatoly Chepiga.

    This is because Bellingcat has produced absolutely ZERO proof, or even evidence, that their photo is that of Chepiga. Their explanation was essentially “we found it in a secret hacked DB”. Right. The only result of their “investigation” was that the latest recipient of the Order of the Russian Federation was a special forces operative. Given that the Russian Armed Forces hasn’t waged any conventional military operations since Chechya, this is equivalent with discovering that bears defecate in forests.

    But of course, the idea that an intelligence Lieutenant Colonel, a career officer, a graduate of a prestigious military academy, and a recipient of one of the highest military decorations would spend the night before a mission smoking pot and having sex with a prostitute (in the same room as another officer!) is astronomically, galactically improbable.

    • Charles Bostock

      It’s not an “Israeli” view. It’s the view of someone who is described at the beginning of the interview as “An Israeli expert on international terrorism, writer Alexander Brass”. A “writer” who is proclaimed (either by himeself, of the journal, or both) as an”expert”.

      It would be interesting to know more about both Mr Alexander Brass and the journal to which the above comment links.

      In that way, readers might be able to assess to what extent Mr Brass is more expert than – for example – they themselves.

  • Sarge

    Thanks for the inside track, Craig, definitely wheels within wheels. Re williamson – when a minister has to be kept on a short leash even by this government that’s when it’s clear we’re dealing with a true idiot.

    • Skye Mull

      Williamson’s tweet is surely proof that MI6 are not actually aware of the true identity of these people, despite previous assertions by the government to that effect. Either that or he is not trusted by MI6.

    • S

      If Williamson thought he should endorse bellingcat without first speaking to someone in intelligence, this is a dramatic display of incompetence. Does he read the daily mail instead of intelligence briefings? Is he really so disconnected from his civil service?

      • romar

        This chap Williamson is just as vapid as Trump: they get their cue for action from the media.
        “A woman told me she has family in Idlib, and is scared…”
        I said don’t worry, I’ll stop that war.
        Then I went home, and read on the NYT that the battle of Idleb was about to begin.
        I tweeted, Stop that war! – And they stopped.
        It is a very sad sign of decrepitude for both countries to have such leaders – the US worse off (for now) for having that sort for president. But I see they want to oust poor Theresa May, and let’s hope she’s not replaced by one worse than her – a clownish, Trump type…
        Well, as they say in my part of the world, “Time unmans the leopard” (Iminsi ikona ingwe). Both the US and the UK have run their course as great powers, and it’s time to salute and step back, and leave the stage for whose it turn it is…

      • Deb O'Nair

        “this is a dramatic display of incompetence.”

        Nothing dramatic about incompetence. The man is ridiculously incompetent because he has absolutely zero ministerial and diplomatic experience and effectively gave himself the job. He is basically a Tory boy school prefect who got too big for his boots under a weak PM. He is a perfect example of the Tory party as a whole; incompetent, arrogant, ignorant and out of their depth. A shower of shite who are a disgrace to this country and to democracy in general.

        • jazza

          it’s heartwarming to know that gavin and his lackeys have the best interests of the people constantly in mind with their ‘courageous’ interventions – not! anyone on here know somebody who voted for this dangerous twat?

    • Muscleguy

      I downloaded it and read it a few years ago now, either before or shortly after buying Murder in Samarkand. It is indeed a very good book and great fun. Craig is very candid about his private life as in Murder iS. I thoroughly recommend it.

  • Rob Royston

    Briilliant insight Craig. Since my teenage years in the early sixty’s the advances in picture and video manipulation have made redundant the old saying, “believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see”. Today, people should question everything that they are presented with but, at least in the English speaking parts of the world, they just want to believe everything fed to them.
    It is quite possible that the Russians are feeding into this mass hysteria to score points against our governments who are making their lives so difficult and fearful.

    • begob

      Everything in the Skripal affair depends on complex technology: not just digital imagery, but lab samples and tests too. I wonder if Lavrov’s comment about A234 and BZ is another trap for the government.

  • Jones

    the only thing i am certain of is that neither UK nor Russia will ever tell the full truth and the case will never be solved, political games being played and there are two types, finite and infinite.

  • John2o2o

    “None of which brings us an awful lot closer to the truth of what happened in Salisbury, which I suspect is a great deal more complicated than any official narrative.”

    Indeed, Craig. I completely agree. I am concerned that it may in part be the intention of certain interested parties to use this to distract our attention away from the matter of what exactly happened in Salisbury, early in March.

    “But it is a fascinating peek into a shadowy world most people never see inside, with which I was once familiar.”

    Fascinating yes, but also rather disturbing.

  • Tom Welsh

    “f the UK government endorses it, this could be followed by the Russians producing Chepiga and apparently discrediting the entire British narrative”.

    That would be the ultimate work of supererogation. One might say that “the entire British narrative” is so much ridiculous nonsense, if there were even such a thing as “the British narrative”.

    But, as of today or any previous time since March, only an idiot would even try to compile an “entire British narrative”, because you cannot tell a story that contradicts itself three times in every paragraph. It’s not a narrative, it’s a wall of mindless propaganda designed to overwhelm and brainwash those with no critical faculties.

  • Sharp Ears

    I had wondered where Mr Shurrup and Go Away’s instructions were coming from. Thanks for this info.

  • Brendan

    Something of relevance was discussed briefly after the “identification” of Boshirov as Chepiga but seems to have been forgotten since then. That is the possibility that Chepiga is dead, since his name appears on a memorial to war heroes.

    It was Bellingcat who presented that inscription as proof of Chepiga’s existence but they didn’t address the obvious implication that Chepiga has been dead for years. If he is dead, then he cannot be Boshirov, who is still alive. Or is it a Russian thing to put names of living people on war memorials?

    • Rowan

      “Chepiga is dead, since his name appears on a memorial to war heroes.” My hypotheses: The memorial photo is faked. There is no record of any such award. Chepiga is real and still alive, so obviously, being not dead yet, he cannot be on any memorial. Chepiga has nothing to do with Petrov & Bashirov. Chepiga will indeed be produced to ridicule the British, as soon as it is clear that the latter ‘s media are not going to come up with any more delirious MI6-sponsored lies about him.

      • Aslangeo

        The memorial is more of a roll of honour (Doska Pocheta in Russian), for the recipients of the countries highest award amongst the graduates of the academy, They would probably be added as soon as the medal was awarded, i.e when they are alive (assuming a non posthumous award), rather than after their deaths. I have checked out some of the names on the official site http://www.warheroes.ru/ which lists all recipients of the medal. Chepiga is not present on this site, several other special operatives are. Something very fishy
        1. Chepiga is a pretending fantasist, a bit like a bloke that turned up at a cenotaph commemoration in London wearing medals he is not entitled to and has taken some people in
        2. There has been a Russian government scrub job, to remove Chepiga from official memorials, but he is found on only non official sites
        3. Lieutenant Kije anybody – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lieutenant_Kij%C3%A9_(film) – i.e. Chepiga is fictitious
        any other ideas welcome

      • Johny Conspiranoid

        A person called Chepiga will be produced. How many people called Chepiga are in the Russian armed forces?

    • Yeah, Right

      “That is the possibility that Chepiga is dead, since his name appears on a memorial to war heroes. ”

      Err, no. His name appears on that wall directly below the name of Alexander Popov, who according to this site was still very much alive in June 2015:

      QED: It is perfectly possible for your name to appear on that memorial wall while you are still kicking and breathing. Simply being awarded that Gong is enough.

      • Brendan

        I had thought that maybe Popov died after that article and before his name was added to the memorial (it still wasn’t on it in an image in another article published the following year, in April 2016: https://eadaily.com/en/news/2016/04/22/nobody-will-be-able-to-separate-russia-and-poland-interview-with-anatoly-kibysh ).

        Nevertheless the link that you give does show that the name of another ‘Hero of Russia’, Vladimir Karpushenko was inscribed on the memorial while he was still alive. His name can be matched to that in the top right hand corner of the image in the eadaily link that I gave. And I’ve seen in another website that he was awarded the title in April, 2000.

        So Chepiga could also be still alive. However, the evidence that he is the same person as Boshirov is still only based on a dodgy comparison between their appearances. Even the ‘fact’ that Chepiga joined the GRU is so far based only on assumptions and unsubstantiated assertions.

        • Yeah, Right

          “So Chepiga could also be still alive. However, the evidence that he is the same person as Boshirov is still only based on a dodgy comparison between their appearances”

          We have only Eliot Higgins word that the passport application form isn’t a fake, and we only have Eliot Higgins word that the photo attached to that form hadn’t been altered.

          And I would bet very good money that Higgins can not authenticate either of them, because I am convinced that it wasn’t his organization who was responsible for hacking into that database and retrieving those forms.

          It was his “investigative partners” who did that and – let’s be honest here – does anyone have the faintest idea who the f**k “The Insider – Russia” actually is?

          I’m guessing Ukrainian, but that’s just a hunch.

          • Johny Conspiranoid

            We have only Eliot Higgins’s word that the supposed photo of Chepiga exists anywhere on a Russian database next to the name Chepiga. It could just as easily be a random picture of Boshirov taken from a site about a place he worked ten years ago, or university year book.
            I like the FSB wind up theory.

    • Igor P.P.

      Not a common thing, but apparently the case here. Sergei Sheiko whose name is next to Chepiga’s is alive.

  • A.C.Doyle

    I noticed some discussions about operation “Toxic Dagger” for the first time yesterday in the comments of a previous Craig Murray article here, and having done a few Google searches, I am now very surprised not to have seen more connections being made between this Chemical Weapons exercise, being performed in Salisbury in early March of this year and the (alleged) poisoning of the Skripals with a chemical weapon in Salisbury in early March of this year. After all, it is another huge coincidence in this long tale.


    Such an operation as described would have provided a perfect cover for acquiring or commissioning the manufacture of a small quantity of the A234 (Novichok) nerve agent under the guise of an exercise to check the efficiency of field testing equipment, the readiness of Porton Down to handle samples, etc. etc. and which would later be used to doctor the Skripal samples sent to the OPCW.

    A234 would have been chosen for this purpose because it could also be plausibly given a Russian sounding name (Novichok).

    Toxic Dagger could have been used also as the pretext to commission the production of the dispenser that was later “found” by Charlie Rowley.

    Maybe Porton Down was also used to manufacture some A234, but maybe also a spook network was used to obtain such samples and conveniently in Salisbury such a network existed which could perform this task.

    It could be that Skripal was more involved in the “poisoning” case that that of a simple victim. It was argued here (the last couple of paragraphs) that Skripal could have had a dual role in this whole affair :


    Seen together with the extraordinary efforts to decontaminate his house when zero effort was made to decontaminate the London hotel which allegedly was also contaminated with Novichok, tends to support the idea that Skripal may have been to known to have been in possession of Novichok.

    It is not necessary, incidentally, to believe that Skripal was actually poisoned with Novichok. If he was also a participant in the plot, he would have recommended something more benign for his “victim” role and would have hoped that such wishes would have been respected.

    Interesting would also be to know how far the Salisbury police would have been involved in operation “Toxic Dagger”. Would, for instance, PC Nick Bailey have had some role as an extra in this ?

    • flatulence'

      I suggested it might be a covert extension to Toxic Dagger to test public/political/services response to a real attack, public etc would not be in the know for this test to be valid. Porton Down does train Salisbury medics on how to recognise nerve agent symptoms etc, so they should not be in the know either. At least equally beneficial for foreign affairs too, with little domestic collateral damage. Nothing a tory government would care about anyway. A big flaw in this would be it seems too obvious, self incriminating, to carry out such an operation in the vicinity and around the time of such a large publicised exercise of the same nature. Surprising though that the UK narrative isn’t headlining that Russia used cover of Toxic Dagger to carry out the attack to steer suspicion toward UK.

      • A.C.Doyle

        The only conceivable benefit that Russia would have of “piggybacking” on operation “Toxic Dagger” then would simply be that of exploiting an opportunity to embarrass the UK so I have difficulty imagining this scenario especially when balanced against the risks.

        Also, if they (the Russians) were “piggybacking” on operation “Toxic Dagger”, they would surely not have used Novichok but would have chosen VX which was originally developed at Porton Down in Salisbury.

        But maybe a third party decided that an unofficial scope widening of “Toxic Dagger” would create a bit of realism to it with the added benefit of sowing more discord between the UK and Russia.

        There are indications that the Skripals were agitated about the delay in getting the bill and in a hurry to leave the restaurant, making their way to that park bench for what would appear to have been a pre-arranged meeting. What happened there (if we don’t buy the “Door Knob” theory) ?

        • Paul Greenwood

          Personally I think the Russians were far too busy getting ready for the World Cup to bother with a 67 year old diabetic in Salisbury with 20 year old knowledge of GRU

          • james

            ditto paul… the toxic dagger exercise was discussed why back when the skripal event was broadcast here at crag murrays site and at moa.. during all of this the uk has done nothing to dispel any of the obvious connections many will make either! in fact, the uk has been short or absent on facts, and long on insinuations and suppositions..

    • Dungroanin

      Hi ACD,

      There are plenty of clues to more than suggest that the novichok/Skripal NARRATIVE is a false flag operation.

      My personal favourite dot joining is the roll of Hamish de Bretton Gordon, his career, his tank regiment comrades, SCL, Syria, Le Mesurier, White Helmets, BBC /MSM ‘intelligence’ mouthpieces …Dearlove, Steele, Millar, Skripal, FBI, Trump Dossier.

      The whole applecart started to get upset when Trump unexpectedly won and refused to install a no fly zone and overt boots on the ground in Syria, or attack Iran in complete contrast to what Hillary was promising to do.

      And there are plenty of posters here with a range of posts with information not generally in the public domain – along with a whole lot of red herrings and trolling by whatever state/private paid trolls. So it is worth trawling through and making up your own mind.

      Whether carried out with the Skripals or upon them is unknown until they are allowed to answer in public.

      The fact that it is October and they haven’t is truly a give away. Or is Tess going to unveil them at conference in triumph?

      The Obsessive Groaniad’ hillarious puff piece on the Bellends this morning, is a desperate last throw of the dice to maintain some narrative control and to attack Murray. Published at 9.00 am comments shut by 12.00 pm – it’s like watching a bit of self flagellation by the now demented old rag.

      Keep on digging for the truth and joining the dots – it is the Suez of this poxy neocon/lib establishment.

      • Sopo

        I did at least manage to write one of the top-rated comments on that piece, rather pompously noting that embracing Bellingcat rather undermined Guardian’s supposed hostility to ‘fake news’.

        • Dungroanin

          Gave it a like!

          Seems as commentators Matt H here, Matt at Off-Guardian and Rudeboy on the Observer may be like the accused russian/s, working the shit shovelling shift – without much success.

          Your comment there is revealing of the size of the trolling operation that is at work on a sunday morning – 50 at least supporting the Bellends.

    • Sharp Ears


      pronoun: themself
      used instead of ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ to refer to a person of unspecified sex.
      “the casual observer might easily think themself back in 1945”

    • N_

      Not a word? How come it’s written as an easily pronounceable string of letters without any gaps in, used to represent a unit that some people use in speech? What kind of an animal is it?

      (The OED says it disappeared in the 16th century!)

    • craig Post author

      Themself is a rare word nowadays, but as everybody who read it knew what it meant it plainly still is a word. Used of course to disguise the sex of my source.

      • Ken Kenn

        The Irish use the word ” Himself ” to describe Arkle the great racehorse and any human of silmilar stature and importance.


        Unfortunately himself and Bob Geldof have other words attached to themselves by the Irish too.

        I won’t repeat hem on here.

      • Iain Stewart

        “My source themself believes” says nothing more than “my source believes”, so the intrusive word is an inelegant and coy way of drawing attention to the idea that it may be a woman. Craig’s inventive use of the English language (“rooves” is a fairly recent example) has a certain charm, but makes it hard for those of feeble wit and little patience (like me) to get all the way through all 382 pages of “Sikunder Burnes”. I paused at chapter 35 a year ago and have yet to muster the necessary courage to fight to the end. I suspect Tony Opmoc will beat me to it.

  • Phil Espin

    Just like to endorse Craig’s comments on his book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. I read it a couple of years ago and it seems as frank an account as you are likely to read about any biography authors personal human foibles. It gives Craig immense credibility that he is so honest about himself. There were many interesting stories in it. What stood out for me most, among some real horror stories, and particularly sickened me was the way New Labour MPs got their noses in the trough by exploiting Africans through UK based companies of which they became directors after serving as ministers. To find out the identities of these despicable “socialists” read the book.

  • kashmiri

    That’s pretty much what I wrote in my comments a few days ago: they might not be Chepiga and they might not have even carried out the attack personally, but to anyone with half brain it was absolutely obvious that the Russian pair were not tourists. But it is clear that they travelled from Moscow to Salisbury in connection with the incident.

    • kashmiri

      I also wrote that Bellingcat should not be discredited in this case merely because they tend to be aligned with a specific political fraction or group. Each case has to be judged in its own merits, and parts (but not all) of Bellingcat’s investigation were quite convincing to me.

      So, I was worried that by continuing insistence that the two were tourists in several of your posts, Craig, despite obvious signals to the contrary you were digging yourself deeper. Glad that you now seem to accept that non-tourist scenarios are not unlikely.

      Also, let me stress – I love reading your blog, it brings a lot of fresh outlook (even though you go too much for “witchhunting by association” in cases where there are many unknowns IMHO).

      • Yeah, Right

        “and parts (but not all) of Bellingcat’s investigation were quite convincing to me”

        Which parts?

      • N_

        Each case has to be judged in its own merits” is the sort of statement it’s impossible to be disagree with but which obscures the picture. Elliot Higgins should not be trusted as far as you can throw him.

        (P)arts (but not all) of Bellingcat’s investigation were quite convincing to me.

        Sure – that’s in the nature of disinformation. Disinformation doesn’t mean “every word is a lie”.

    • Igor P.P.

      Their movements may not make perfect sense as a tourism execrcise, but they make even less sense in an assasination context. If they came in connection with Skripals but had no idea of what is about to happen, the question arises what could plausibly be their mission.

  • Jeremn

    Regarding Chepiga’s medal, Bellingcat wrote, rather oddly, that “the only region in which Russia was conducting active military operations in secrecy at the time was in Eastern Ukraine, which is the most likely theatre of his mission, as suggested by the secrecy of his award.”

    it struck me as a strange, and unnecessary, aside. Got to prove Russia invaded Ukraine, so throw this in to the mix.

    And it leads me to conclude that the Ukrainian secret service are feeding Bellingcat material. This struck me again this morning when I read this theory:


    Somebody has been hacking, stealing or forging passports. In short a Boshirov photo could well have been attached to a faked Chepiga document.


    It is the kind of thing the SBU gets up to.

    • Yeah, Right

      Not just is it an unnecessary piece of extrapolation on Eliot Higgins part, it is also directly contradicted by the evidence that he actually used in his article to reach that conclusion.

      1) The caption of the photo of 10 DVOKU recipients of the “Hero of the Russian Federation” clearly states that they are all on duty in Chechnya
      2) The “volunteer web site” where he first came across the name “Chepiga” clearly states that he won the award for his work in Chechnya (“Chepiga Anatoly Vladimirovich, was on a business [sic] trip in Chechnya three times and has more than 20 awards and insignia. And in December 2014, Colonel A. Chepige. For the fulfillment of the peacekeeping mission he was awarded the title Hero of the Russian Federation”)
      3) The link to an article on Alexander Popov contains this about yet another HoRF winner: “Karpushenko, Colonel of the Marine Corps of the Black Sea Fleet, earned an honorary title in Chechnya”.
      4) The link on the DVOKU website also describes both Popov and Chepiga as “honorary” winners of the HoRF, which with (3) above suggests strongly that an “honorary” award means it is earnt for efforts on a peacekeeping deployment.

      Regardless, Higgins is simply wrong to imply that the only way you can be awarded a “Hero of the Russian Federation” is via combat or covert action. That is demonstrably untrue, since Cosmonauts are routinely awarded that gong, which Bellingcat must surely know.

      • Igor P.P.

        Former state prosecutor Ustinov was awarded it too, and by a secret order. Higgins routinely makes stuff up apparently.

    • SA

      The Atlantic council has a project dedicated to the Ukraine
      This contains some of the most anti-Russian propaganda. Higgins is a senior non-resident research fellow with the Atlantic Council and has published extensive misinformation on the MH17 disaster.

  • Yeah, Right

    I think a summary of Bellingcat’s investigative methods is in order, because a lot of people appear to misunderstand it.

    It goes like this:
    1) Higgins tried photo-matching against open-source material, and came up empty.
    2) He then embarked on “deductive reasoning” of how a person gets to be a Russian spy/assassin
    3) He rang a Russian officer (!!!) to ask which school specializes in teaching Russian spy/assassins, and was rewarded with: “Far Eastern Military Command Academy” aka “DVOKU”
    4) He perused all the Year Books for DVOKU and could not find a single match. Not one. Zero. Nada.
    5) However, there was one photo of 10 DVOKU graduates that so fascinated Higgins he felt compelled to type the search items “DVOKU”, “Chechnya” and “Hero of the Russian Federation” into Google. Quite why he felt so compelled is handwaved away. An epiphany, apparently. Lucky happenstance.
    6) That search led him to a volunteer web site that mentions, amongst other names, the name “Chepiga Anatoly Vladimirovich”, which instantly leapt out at Higgins for reasons of…. reasons.
    7) Higgins noted that Chepiga was a recipient of “Hero of the Russian Federation”, which Higgins had already concluded (for reasons of… reasons, see (5) above) was a sure-fire marker of Russian spy/assassins.
    8) Higgins then searched online torrents of leaked Russian phone books for a match for Chepiga, two of which gave him a likely date of birth.
    9) Higgins then abruptly changed his methods, abandoning open-source and turning to leaked data from secure Russian passport databases to obtain (Gotcha!!) the passport photo that he then released so triumphantly.

    That the bare-bones of Bellingcat’s investigation method.

    Several things need to be pointed out:
    a) A Russian military officer fingers just the right super-secret School For Assassins for Higgins to get started with his “deductive work”? Buy yourself a lottery ticket, Eliot.
    b) Higgins conviction that “Hero of the Russian Federation” will lead him to his man is unexplained, but is necessary for him to arrive at the name of Chepiga. Divine inspiration? Or convenient ret-con?
    b) Higgins arrival at the name of Chepiga is a preposterous example of blind-luck (he was searching for a name to put to a photo of a man who was not his assassin, only to end up with a name of a man that when he matched to a photo turned out to be his assassin).
    c) The point at which Higgins had a name but not a photo is the exact moment where he abandoned open-source and went with hacked databases, which coincidentally just happens to be the exact moment he ceases to talk about what “Bellingcat” has done and began talking about what “Bellingcat and The Insider” has done.
    d) Because of (c) I think it is a given that Higgins had no hand in obtaining that passport photo i.e. it was handed to him by “The Insider – Russia” and he has to take on trust that it is genuine photo hacked from a real Russian database of passport applications.
    e) But – as Craig has already pointed out – that photo actually comprises the *one* and *only* link between Chepiga and Boshirov. Everything else is simply filler-material that seeks to flesh out the details of Chepiga’s existence and history.

    I suspect that Craig’s insider information is onto something i.e. Eliot Higgins is being played by whoever is running that “The Insider – Russia” operation, and that this all started when *they* came to *him* with that passport photo, and he then had to discover the semi-plausible path described in (1) through (8) to explain how he could have arrived at that photo through open-source “deductive” investigation.

    In other words: Higgins is a shill for hire, and someone has fed him lies.

    • Brendan

      You’ve left out the final clincher in Eliot’s investigation. Don’t laugh:

      “Asked about a breakthrough moment, Higgins wrote: “As strange as it sounds, it’s when I saw his ear shape in all three photographs we had of him. It’s difficult to be 100% sure on facial matches, but something like the shape of the ears is very useful for confirming an ID, so that was as much… a Eureka moment as anything else.” ”

      Forget matching by fingerprints, iris scans or facial recognition software. Ear shape analysis is the science of the future, and requires only a low resolution photo that shows only a small part of the ears.

      • Yeah, Right

        Well, to be fair that statement wasn’t in the Bellingcat article.

        But, nonetheless, it is laughable: even a moment’s glance tells you that the photo on the left has been edited to remove the background. The same is true of the middle photo (i.e. the passport photo dated 2009).

        Only the right-most photo has escaped that editing (the background is still intact).

        So of those three photos TWO of them clearly show that the area around the ears has been digitally manipulated. Only the last photo hasn’t. So comparing the ear shape between those three photos is a pointless exercise.

        “Higgins wrote: “As strange as it sounds, it’s when I saw his ear shape in all three photographs we had of him”

        Eliot, you are a hopeless, hapless, dimwit.

        • Borncynical

          In addition to inconsistencies in the comparable ear outlines in the three photos, more than suggesting a degree of photo manipulation, I also noticed that the bottom of the ear lobes in photo 2 is directly level with the nostrils – distinctly unnatural. Looking in a mirror, and pre-empting someone arguing that the distortion could be achieved by a slight forward tilt of the head, I tried to get the same effect myself and found I had to tilt my head forward by about 35-40 degrees.

      • Apis

        I’m guessing Higgins sources in US government departments mentioned the thing about the ears being a unique identifier. I recall when I applied for a residency permit for the US back in the 90s I had to take not just the traditional front face-on photos such as for passports/visa, but also side on photos from an angle that clearly showed my ears. The photographer who took these photos explained to me that this was because the shape of someone’s ears was actually used as a unique identifier of an individual by US Immigration authorities.
        Check this link for some US resident cards which show the side-on photo:

        However, this doesn’t explain how Higgins believes he was able to identify Chepiga/Boshirov from traditional frontal photos that don’t really show much of the suspect’s ears suggesting he is talking rubbish or he’s seen some side-on photos which he hasn’t yet revealed.

  • Nicola

    Why the emergence of additional Russian actors in the Salisbury narrative. Do any of us know how many people are spying on others in the UK for political, personal or commercial reasons? Craig might know more than others. Why the noise and fascination about Russian colonels? Whose agenda that suit including writers of spy novels or James Bond style movies or Russian literature for that matter? Why the repeated focus on Russia as if no other country has spies or does any spying abroad. It makes a good story for the media to lap up and spit out, but still does not prove that a nerve agent poisoning ever happened.

  • George

    Are we forgetting the whole story? Somebody did try to poison the Skripals. A likely reason was to blame Russia. Should we then be surprised if a Russian secret agent of some sort was around at the time? That can only strengthen the narrative. Difficult to arrange, surely, but I am moving away from the possibility that this is coincidence, or that Chepiga is a different person.
    The alternative is of course that the Russians did it, even if it was a very stupid thing to do. But why did the two look at coins in a shop, instead of keeping an eye on the health condition of the old man?
    I do hope we find out at the end.

    • Yeah, Right

      “Are we forgetting the whole story? Somebody did try to poison the Skripals”

      I believe that is true, yes.

      “A likely reason was to blame Russia. ”

      I always considered that to be extremely unlikely. I still do.

      “Should we then be surprised if a Russian secret agent of some sort was around at the time?”

      I am not surprised that this accusation is levelled at a pair of Russians who were there at the time, no, but I take exception to your blind acceptance that this accusation is true.

      “That can only strengthen the narrative.”

      That is very true. Accusations are good for that.

      “Difficult to arrange, surely, but I am moving away from the possibility that this is coincidence, or that Chepiga is a different person.”

      The PHOTO on the passport application that is in the name of Chepiga may (or may not) be a photo of a much-younger Boshirov – but that would be just as true if that passport application was a forgery intended to deceive Eliot Higgins. As in: fake up that passport application, stick an old photo of Boshirov on it, and then leak it to Bellingcat.

      I am actually undecided if that photo is kosher or not, but I think Elena Evdokimova makes a compelling case on twitter that it is a forgery, and that Eliot Higgins is a bumbling Useful Idiot when it comes to disseminating such forgeries.

      “The alternative is of course that the Russians did it, even if it was a very stupid thing to do.”

      That still remains a possibility, but then it comes down to motive – and that requires something rather more compelling that a simple “Because Putin really, really, really hates traitors to such a degree that he becomes completely unhinged”.

      Now, if anyone comes up with compelling evidence that ol’ Sergei was still up to no good in the spy game then I might reconsider, but for now I think the idea that Putin wanted to kill a fat old pensioner for reasons of…. irrationality…. just doesn’t ring true to me.

      • Dailyshocker.news

        They did today. German press claims he exposed several agents in past few years, and as we all know, he was an active UK asset, and Pablo miller was still his handler. Oh and of course the whole trump dossier thing.

        It benefits both sides that old troublesome man vanishes.

    • Igor P.P.

      A secret Russian agent there would not be surprising. Surprising is the idea that someone travelling from Russia on a Russian passport with no disguise or effort to hide is one.

    • N_

      @George – “Are we forgetting the whole story? Somebody did try to poison the Skripals.

      I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion.

  • Sharp Ears

    Have just been looking our Gav up. Nothing much on his TWFY apart from some largish donations from the local cement works, a family business. Worthy of note in his vote against an investigation into the Iraq war. Why? He obviously approved of BLiar’s illegal war.

    A steady progression through the partei including a spell as PPS to Agent Cameron and then from being Theresa’s chief whip to the MoD following Fracking Fallon’s demise!

    ‘In February 2018, Williamson dined with Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former Putin minister, in exchange for £30,000. Later that month, Williamson alleged that the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, in meeting a Czech diplomat (later revealed to be a spy) during the 1980s, had “betray[ed]” his country. In response to the statement, a spokesman for Corbyn stated: “Gavin Williamson should focus on his job and not give credence to entirely false and ridiculous smears”.

    Williamson has supported the Saudi Arabian-led military intervention in Yemen against the Shia Houthis (Lovely man).

    On 15 March 2018, in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning, Williamson answered a question about Russia’s potential response to the UK′s punitive measures against Russia by saying that “frankly, Russia should go away, and it should shut up”. The remark attracted media attention and criticism in the UK. Meanwhile, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman of the Russian Defence Ministry, said: “The market wench talk that British defence secretary Gavin Williamson resorted to reflects his extreme intellectual impotency”. Williamson′s remark was quoted by the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, who posted a comment on his official Twitter account.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavin_Williamson

    Spot on there Maj Gen Konashenkov.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    See nothing relating to the spy games following Gareth Williams going to the USA to hack the computers of the Manhattan 11 which proved to him that they were simply CIA sleepers whose Anna Chapman had been recruited by MI6 for the false flag group New Russia in the Pimlico flat where he subsequently worked, his raising hell about it leading to his brutal murder, the brutal murders of Gudrun
    Loftus and Steve Rawlings who were interested in revealing his role and continuing his work, Putin’s magnanimous rolle in being willing to trade Skripal and other Russian spies for the 11 CIA sleepers except for their missing leader, the British vile payback by trying to kill that Vladimir and his daughter Yulia, and continuing its efforts ad nauseam.

    This beats anything the KGB ever did,

  • David Green

    I’m reading Murder In Samarkand at present and find it hard to put down. I recently suggested in conversation with a couple of friends that the Skripal’s have not survived the poisoning but was told that Yulia has been interviewed on TV since. Hopefully they have both recovered despite the tragedy of the other victims.

    • Robyn

      Let’s see and hear them then. Hard to believe Sergei, who used to be in frequent contact with his nonagenarian mother, and Yulia who rang her cousin Viktoria first chance (phone) she got and who wanted to return to Russia, have voluntarily disappeared without a trace.

  • Derek J. Smith

    Your average episode of NCIS has plots more complicated – quadruple crosses etc. Why else might two real soviet agents have been within a block of the Skripal’s place WITHOUT being there as assassins. They look like agents, but they don’t look like assassins. How might they have been suckered in (as patsies) and then hit with some sort of sting. The real guilty ones ain’t on video, IMHO

    • Robyn

      ‘Why else might two real soviet agents have been within a block of the Skripal’s place WITHOUT being there as assassins.’

      One suggestion is they were document couriers which makes more sense than a pair of failed assassins bumbling around in broad daylight in the country with the most spy cameras in the world.

      • Igor P.P.

        Cameras would be an issue for document couriers too, I think. A motorbike Pizza delivery guy thing would work better.

    • Yeah, Right

      “Why else might two real soviet agents”

      Your age is showing. You might want to tuck it back in.

    • SH

      Some agents. It took them almost 4 hours by train to get there. And then they proceeded walking.

      Does not look like the behavior of people “on assignment”, be they “couriers” or “assassins”

      • Yeah, Right

        I agree.

        If they were document couriers then they would rent a car and drive it to their destination.
        If they were assassins then there would be someone else who rents the car for them, and then they would use it to drive to their destination.

        In neither case would they head to their destination by public transport and on foot.

  • Mistress Pliddy's coal-scuttle bonnet

    The absolute necessity to dumb down for the USA audience the titles of books published and films produced by British, other European, Australian, Indian, Nigerian, etc. is universally understood and practised by publishers and producers interested in commercial success over on that lefthand side of the map. Devising an appropriate alternative title that remains true to the book or film and yet is intelligible to the targeted market is a fine and challenging art. A humour-filled hour or two can be whiled away perusing over such before-and-after pairs, spotting the often-extreme differences between grownup and simplified versions, and the probable reasoning underlying the bowdlerisation.

    Occasionally, a publisher makes a major oversight when devising an appropriately dumbed-down title. Such is the case with Murder in Samarkand. Whoever came up with Dirty Diplomacy was either asleep on the job or a novitiate in the arcane art of dumbing-down for the, um, less educated. Seriously, “diplomacy”? The sheer absurdity…”summer-whud?” “diplo-whud?”

    • Robyn

      The dumb-down title for Murder in Samarkand is in fact worse than the short version, Dirty Diplomacy.

      Here’s the full title for US readers: Dirty Diplomacy: The Rough-and-Tumble Adventures of a Scotch-Drinking, Skirt-Chasing, Dictator-Busting and Thoroughly Unrepentant Ambassador Stuck on the Frontline of the War Against Terror.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    This site is like playing bridge on line, whatever one bids is generally ruined bt crazy partner responses or distribution.

  • Lea

    There is no way Boshirov can be the “Chepiga” who can be seen on the pic released (provided it’s of anyone by that name, as that pic could be of anybody in Russia). Plus the Kremlin said they did not know of any “Colonel Chepiga”.

    If the FSB did feed that “information” to Bellingcat’s source, then Russia’s muddying the water with conflicting media views can only mean one thing: they are trolling the UK. It goes as follows: wait so as to feed the hysteria, let the Tories drown in ridicule, and only then triumphantly produce a picture of “Boshirov” and “Chepiga” together.

    All you have to do after is grab the popcorn and wait for the tweetstorm against Johnson, Williamson and May.

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