Salisbury poisoning: Third Russian spy is charged with attempted murder after Novichok hit killed 1 and injured 4

A SINISTER “Third Man” has been charged with attempted murder over the Salisbury Poisonings – and is suspected of leading a Kremlin-backed hit squad terrorising Europe.

Denis Sergeev, 47, guided the team which nearly killed Russian turncoat Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok nerve agent, putting thousands of British lives at risk.

Anti-terror cops confirmed today that Sergeev met Skripal poisoners Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin in London in the hours leading up to the 2018 attack.

And the Crown Prosecution Service has concluded there is enough evidence to formally charge him with conspiracy to murder.

Sergeev’s name has now been added to Interpol watch lists alongside Chepiga and Mishkin, alerting border forces ordered to detain him should he stray within the reach of UK courts.

Police confirmed todaythat he arrived in the UK on a separate flight from the two hitmen on March 2, 2018 and stayed in a different central London hotel.

But evidence believed to have been gleaned from countless CCTV trawls over years has now pinpointed a string of meetings between the trio at open-air and indoor locations in the capital.

Police declined to reveal the locations of the hit squad’s meets.

But today’s revelation raises the chilling spectre that they may have handled the chemical weapon – hidden in a perfume bottle – in crowded London parks, cafes, hotels or eateries.

UK investigators have also declared for the first time that Sergeev – like his co conspirators – is linked to Russia’s shadowy GRU secret service.

And evidence from foreign probes now links the danger men to deadly explosions and poisonings targeting Vladimir Putin enemies across Europe.

Today’s disclosures heap more shame on the regime of Kremlin strongman Putin, who has denied Russian state involvement in Salisbury while calling Skripal a “scumbag and a traitor.”  

Skripal, now 70, and 37-year-old daughter Yulia fell critically ill in March 2018 were they poisoned with Novichok sprayed on the door handle of his Salisbury home.

Both recovered but tragic local mum-of-three Dawn Sturgess, 44, died four months later when her partner found the discarded Nina Ricci bottle containing the poison and gave it to her.

Salisbury-based Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was also left seriously ill after ingesting the poison while investigating the case but recovered.

Had the amount of Novichok in that bottle come into contact with the public it could have killed hundreds, if not thousands of people

Counter terrorism chief, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon said: “There has been a delay with the third man.

“We were able to evidence the first two pretty quickly but the third man has taken slightly longer.

"We have to follow due process, and by that I mean investigation, putting it into evidence, putting it before the Crown Prosecution Service, and then eventually we ended up where we are today.”

Mr Haydon, the UK’s senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, said charges have now been authorised by the CPS against Sergeev for conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm and possession of a chemical weapon.

Sergeev’s sinister sidekicks face the same charges, which they have both denied from the safe haven of Putin’s Russia.

Mr Haydon added: “They met – without doubt – operating as as a small team to deploy Novichok to kill individuals in this country.

"We have other intelligence that suggests they've been here before, but we know that they've been in other countries as well, operating as a threesome and likely with others.

“We are suggesting the three men acted jointly throughout this enterprise – and remain as determined as ever to bring those responsible to justice.

“If there is an opportunity to arrest them and bring them before a Uk court we will try to do that.

“Being members of the GRU they were highly trained and when you look at their activities in 2018, all three of them were dangerous individuals who tried to murder people in the UK and brought an extremely dangerous chemical.

“Had the amount of Novichok in that bottle come into contact with the public it could have killed hundreds, if not thousands of people.

“The investigation team has also been piecing together evidence that suggests all three of them have previously worked with each other, and on behalf of the Russian state on operations carried out, outside Russia.”


Detailing the Russian hit team’s operation, Mr Haydon confirmed all three had used Russian passports with false identities to enter the UK.

Sergeev arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport on a flight from Moscow at 11am on March 2 using the name Sergey Fedotov, four hours before the other two flew into Gatwick.

Chepiga used the alias Ruslan Boshirov while Mishkin was Alexandr Petrov and checked into the low budget City Stay hotel, in Bow, East London.

Policedeclined to identify the central London hotel where Sergeev stayed but confirmed the trio had “several meetings” days prior to the Salisbury attack.

Traces of Novichok were found at the City Stay Hotel but none at the lodgings of Sergeev, a more senior GRU operative who is assumed to have been directing the operation.

Chepiga, a 42-year-old GRU colonel and military doctor Mishkin, 42, were sent to deliver the poison and fled as Skripa and Yulia collapsed in a shopping centre sparking a doomsday alert.

Sergeev was caught on CCTV as the attack was carried out boarding a 1.45pm flight from Heathrow while his comrades flew out on a 10.30pm flight from the same airport.

Mr Haydon confirmed that police forces across the globe were now checking probing suspicious incidents believed to be linked to the Russian trio.

They were all believed to be members of an elite 20-strong GRU squad deployed to do Putin’s dirty work abroad called Unit 29155.

Mr Haydon said investigations into the trio’s activities were most advanced in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, where poisoning and deadly sabotage are suspected.

Chepiga and Mishkin were identified from CCTV in Salisbury and their pictures matched to their passports bearing their fake names by UK police after the Skripal attack.

The gloating pair were later paraded on Russian TV denying involvement, claiming they were sports nutritionists who visited Salisbury to see the spire of the cathedral.

But their appearance sparked a probe in the Czech Republic into huge explosions which killed two workers at an arms store in October 2014.

Checks by police revealed they had used the same cover identities as – Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov – at Prague airport.

They stayed in Prague for two days then checked into accommodation in Ostrava, near the ammunition depot on October 13, booking in till October 17.

But they vanished within hours of the enormous blast on October 16 and travelled overland to Vienna to board a flight back to Moscow.


Authorities at first believed the explosion near the remote border village of Vrbetice – which was heard for miles and blew local farmers off their feet – was an accident.

But it was later discovered that two men given access to the site for an inspection visit had shown passports with pictures matching  those of Chepiga and Mishkin.

One of the people storing weapons there was a Bulgarian arms dealer called Emilian Gebrev, said to have been supplying to weapons to Russian arch-enemy Ukraine.

In April 2015, six months after the Czech explosion, Gebrev fell seriously ill in the Bulgarian capital Sofia after a suspected poison attack.

Police have since established that Sergeev was in Bulgaria at the time of the alleged poisoning.

The trained assassin – again using the name Fedotov – and two other men from Unit 29155 checked into a hotel in the same complex as Gebrev's office.

They insisted on rooms with a view of the underground car park and surveillance CCTV showed a man approaching the cars of Gebrev and his son, who also collapsed soon after.

A toxic substance is believed to have been smeared on the door handles – as in the Skripal attack.

Although he had a return flight booked two days later, Fedotov left the country on April 28 – the day of the poisoning.

"We want to hear from anyone who might have information relating to the perfume box in the bottle during that period.

Gebrev was reported he was supplying weapons to a number of countries against Moscow's wishes, including Ukraine.

Investigators believe the blast at the Czech depot could have been a warning – which was followed by an attempted hit when it was not heeded.

Czech ministers have accused Unit 29155 of mounting sabotage, subversion and assassination missions on foreign soil, with Russian state support.

The unit is believed to be staffed by as many as 200 operatives – with the majority working to support just 20 elite spies in the field.

As well as Salisbury, Bulgaria and now the Czech Republic, the unit has been linked to other operations including an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016.

As well as Salisbury, Bulgaria and now the Czech Republic, the unit has been linked to other operations including an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016.

The trio involved in Salisbury and now linked to the Czech explosion have not been seen since they were identified in 2018 and are safe from extradition in Russian.

But Western intelligence officials say Unit 29155 remains active – though UK investigators say there has been no point making any formal approach to Russian authorities.


Counter terror chief Mr Haydon said the three GRU men had not been charged with Dawn Sturgess’s murder as the probe into the events leading to her death was still ongoing.

Skripal is believed to have been punished by Putin henchmen for his work as a double agent for MI6 during the 1990s.

He was arrested in Russia 2004 but moved to a supposed safe house in Salisbury six years later following a spy-swap deal,

Detectives issued an appeal to anyone with information about where the Nina Ricci perfume bottle containing the Novichok nerve agent was between March and July 2018.

They are trying to piece together what happened to the counterfeit bottle with specially adapted nozzle and its box, which was linked to the death of Dawn Sturgess.

Her partner, Charlie Rowley, told cops he found a discarded bottle which turned out to contain the nerve agent and Dawn died after she sprayed it onto her wrists to try it.

Mr Rowley also fell seriously ill from the effects of the toxin but has recovered.


Mr Haydon said: "We want to hear from anyone who might have information relating to the perfume box in the bottle during that period.

“The UK does not have an extradition treaty with Russia and we have had little cooperation from the Russian state.

“The Foreign Office will be working through diplomatic channels but there is little we can do.”

It comes as the European Court of Human rights ruled that Russia was responsible for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who became a British citizen, died of polonium poisoning in 2006 in London.

A UK public inquiry conducted in 2016 concluded that the killing was "probably approved" by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Litvinenko's widow, Marina, took the case against Russia to the Strasbourg-based rights court, which has agreed with the UK inquiry's conclusion.

Russia has always denied any involvement in his murder, but the court has found that its failure to refuse claims further pointed towards the slaying being their responsibility.


SALISBURY suspect Denis Sergeev is understood to be a powerful Major General in Russia’s cloak and dagger GRU secret service.

His high rank suggests he would almost certainly have been the puppet master directing the two hitmen who attacked Sergei Skripal in the terrifying poison plot.  
But a probe by investigative website Bellingcat suggests his commanding role was hard earned after years of dangerous undercover missions.

Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeev was born in Usharal, a small militarized town in what was at the time Soviet Kazakhstan, near the Soviet-China border.

Records show both Denis Sergeev and his cover identity “Sergey Fedotov” were born on 17 September 1973.

He served in the army in the southern Russian city of Novorossiysk in the Krasnodar Region.

At some point between 2000 and 2002, he was transferred to Moscow and enrolled at the elite Military Diplomatic Academy – known in Russia as the “GRU Conservatory”.

The Military Diplomatic Academy churns out 100 elite intelligence officers each year, including spies posing as diplomatic and military attaches.

Sergeev military past remains a mystery as all public records relating to him since the Skripal attacks have been erased.

But it is known that the GRU Academy takes only the best military officers with the minimum rank of captain who have excelled in Spetsnaz special forces or navy units.

Like all other graduates, Sergeev would have finished the Academy with a minimum rank of lieutenant-colonel.

But time served and his high profile suggest he holds a minimum rank of full colonel, and possibly major-general – and he will almost certainly have been honoured by Putin.

Sergeev – said to be married with an adult daughter – is also a shareholder or managing director of eight sham Russian companies all liquidated between 2007 and 2012.

But despite having no tangible assets, property or even a car, a Russian bank loaned him $1 million in 2009.

He remains in Russia but has not broken cover to issue a denial and his exact whereabouts were unknown last night.

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