Colonel Anatoly Chepiga, also known as Ruslan Boshirov, a Russian intelligence agent who is one of London’s chief suspects in the Skripal poisoning case, was awarded the title “Hero of Russia” for operations he carried out in Crimea, Novaya Gazeta reports.
This information was provided by three of Chepiga’s former coworkers from the 282nd special forces unit in Matveevka, the unit Chepiga joined as a lieutenant in 2001 after completing his studies at the Far Eastern Higher Military Command School.
All three sources asked to remain anonymous.
“Chepiga got the title Hero of Russia for Crimea,” said one of his fellow graduates and soldiers from the unit. “Inscribed on the stela of the Rokossovsky memorial are the names of graduates who have been awarded the title of Hero – Chepiga is there, as well as Colonel Alexander Popov [not the same as the other poisoning suspect, Alexander Petrov], a graduate from the school in 1995. Chepiga and Popov received the title Hero of Russia through a secret presidential order, for Crimea. At the time, Popov commanded a free special forces unit, and Chepiga was still a lieutenant colonel. The truth is, I can’t even imagine what exactly Chepiga got up to in Crimea.”
Novaya Gazeta’s sources named three key special operations that were carried out in Crimea in February 2014: the capture of the Crimean Council of Ministers building, the capture of the Belbek Airport, and the disarmament of the Ukrainian naval infantry brigade in Feodosia. All three operations were carried out without bloodshed, and for this Popov and Chepiga were awarded the title Hero of Russia.
The sources say that Chepiga joined the military academy of the Russian Defense Ministry after the operations in Crimea.
An investigator working with The Insider and Bellingcat claimed earlier that Chepiga may have received the award for facilitating former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s escape from Ukraine.