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A day earlier, Bellingcat said it determined that the suspect who traveled to Britain in March on a passport under the name Aleksandr Petrov is actually Mishkin, a military doctor employed by Russia's military intelligence agency, widely known as the GRU.

Three images provided by Bellingcat of Alexander Mishkin.

The website previously identified the other suspect as GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, saying he had travelled to Salisbury in southern England under the alias Ruslan Boshirov.

Sources in St. Petersburg also identified Petrov as Mishkin, Bellingcat reported. It said that he too had received Russia's highest award the same year in a secret ceremony in the Kremlin.

One theory suggested by British intelligence was that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to publicly punish the two men for both fumbling their assignment and getting caught. British officials have thus far not commented on the report.

The two then appeared in an interview on Russian television where they claimed they were vitamin salesmen, who had visited Salisbury as tourists interested in the city's cathedral.

"We shouldn't also forget that there was a big effort made by our police and MI5 to spot them in the first place, track their movements and also. the huge effort that went in to develop the intelligence that helped guide us to the door of the GRU itself". The UK's Metropolitan Police Service said it would not comment on speculation regarding the true identities of the two men.

A little-known website that fingered two Russians with military intelligence backgrounds in the poisoning of an ex-spy derived its name from an old fable about mice discussing how best to deal with a hungry cat.

He and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a public bench in Salisbury, and the British authorities said they were sickened by a Soviet-made nerve agent.

The Skripals survived after a lengthy hospital stay in intensive care. The British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after unwittingly spraying the novichok on her wrists.

The poisonings have added tension to already severely strained ties between Russian Federation and the West, leading to additional US and European Union sanctions on Moscow and to an exchange of diplomatic expulsions.

According to Bellingcat, Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin was born in 1979. Bellingcat said he was an agent of Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and that he was recruited by the organisation while studying medicine. They were then able to show that Mishkin, with the same date of birth as his cover identity, had registered his vehicle to the address of the GRU's main headquarters building in Moscow.

"Bellingcat's identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport", the website said.

Mishkin's GRU rank was unknown, it added, but based on his 15-year service was likely to be lieutenant colonel or colonel. At some point between 2007 and 2010, Mishkin moved to Moscow, where, according to Bellingcat, he began working for the GRU.

Among targets of the GRU attacks were the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), transport systems in Ukraine, and democratic elections, such as the 2016 USA presidential race, according to the NCSC.