Novichok poisoning suspect celebrated as hero in home village
Alexander Mishkin received the award of Hero of the Russian Federation from President Vladimir Putin.
The second suspect in the Salisbury nerve agent attack is a celebrated local hero in his home village.
Several residents in the remote village of Loyga easily recognised Alexander Mishkin in photos as one of two men accused by UK officials of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia in Salisbury in March.
But to them he is just a warm-hearted local boy, a “Hero of Russia” who has made a successful career as a military doctor thanks to his hard work and courage.
Yuri Poroshin, an amateur painter who lives in Loyga, said: “He studied at school here. His picture even hangs on the wall there because he’s a Hero of Russia.”
Mr Poroshin said he heard that Mishkin received Russia’s highest medal for saving the life of his commanding officer during fighting with Islamist rebels in Chechnya.
British police say two agents of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, travelling under the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, used the Soviet-made nerve agent Novichok to poison Mr Skripal.
This week, the investigative group Bellingcat identified Petrov as Dr Alexander Mishkin, a GRU agent who had received Russia’s highest award. Previously the group had uncovered the real identity of Boshirov, determining that he is GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.
Bellingcat, which based its probe on passport information, residents’ databases, car registration documents and phone records, determined that the 39-year-old Mishkin grew up in Loyga before moving to St Petersburg, where he studied medicine at the elite Kirov Military Medical Academy.
Some Loyga residents corroborated that account, confirming that Mishkin was trained as a military doctor.
They said he continued to visit Loyga, where his 90-year-old grandmother, a respected local general practitioner, still lives.
Mr Poroshin’s wife, Valentina Poroshina, fondly remembers Mishkin, whom she last spoke to on a train four years ago. “He was a good boy,” she said. “He was very polite.”
Mr Poroshin also immediately recognised Mishkin when shown the photos released by British police. “Yes, that’s him. He looks like his dad and grandmother,” he said.
The Poroshins’ granddaughter, Yulia, said that Mishkin was lauded as a role model at her school. “We even have a portfolio on him,” she said.