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Britain

Bulgaria to check Skripal suspect link to 2015 poisoning

  • Suspect in the Skripal nerve agent attack may have been involved in attempted poisoning of Bulgarian businessman Emiliyan Gebrev
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 February, 2019, 7:12am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 February, 2019, 7:12am

Bulgaria will investigate reports that a new suspect in the Skripal nerve agent attack in Britain may also have been involved in a 2015 poisoning in Bulgaria, a ruling party lawmaker said Saturday.

A parliamentary committee will on Thursday seek information from the intelligence services following a new investigation into the attempted poisoning of local businessman Emiliyan Gebrev, said Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the parliamentary leader of the ruling GERB party.

“I am certain that the necessary coordination has already been set up between the Bulgarian, British and European authorities on the case and they are working actively on it,” he added.

The statement was the first official reaction in Bulgaria to a report issued last week by the investigative website Bellingcat.

Their report identified a hitherto unknown third suspect in last year’s attack in Salisbury, England, of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Two Russian suspects in Skripal poisoning are ‘not criminals’, says Putin

Skripal and his adult daughter were discovered unconscious on a Salisbury park bench after they had been poisoned by the highly toxic nerve agent Novichok in an attack the British government says was “almost certainly” approved by the Russian state.

Although they both recovered, a British woman died last June after her partner picked up a discarded perfume bottle that investigators believe was used to carry the Novichok.

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

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

Bellingcat’s latest report identifies a third man – named by his alias “Sergey Fedotov” – as being involved in the British attack, having arrived in Britain two days before the Skripals were poisoned.

They concluded that the same man may also have been involved in the attempted poisoning in April 2015 of Gebrev, a veteran of Bulgarian arms industry.

“Fedotov” is said to have flown into Sofia from Moscow just days before Gebrev collapsed at a reception there on April 28, 2015 and fell into a coma with symptoms of severe poisoning.

His son and one of his company executives were treated with similar symptoms although all three recovered.

On Friday, the Bulgarian weekly newspaper Capital cited interior ministry sources as confirming Fedotov’s itinerary in Bulgaria.

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