The anonymous retired agent claimed Russian military intelligence uses ‘liquidators’ to kill enemies – but doubts that the men named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are plausible as killers.
They could, however, have been ‘watchers’ to report on security around the Skripal family home in Salisbury and pass information to the real hit squad which remain unseen to MI5 and the police, he claimed.
Petrov and Boshirov used Russian passports to fly to Britain and appear to have engaged in a sex-and-drugs session in their London hotel – as well as being spotted by a host of TV cameras – while on their GRU mission, according to reports.
But the GRU would not have sent assassins to Britain using Russian passports, the ex-agent was quoted as telling newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets today.
Nor would the real ‘liquidators’ have been so inept at avoiding CCTV cameras.
‘Nowadays it is no problem to make a high quality foreign passport for any country,’ he boasted.
‘If it had been needed to send real liquidators for a serious task, then, for example, a citizen of Latvia and a citizen of the Dominican Republic would have entered the country.
‘And when the task was completed, the citizen of Hungary and a citizen of Puerto Rico would have left the country.’
The GRU – which is part of the Russian defence ministry – always had ‘strict rules’ on assassinating enemies, said the former agent.
‘Each liquidation operation is designed in detail,’ he explained. ‘Several options for escape are worked out.’
Schemes for ‘liquidating unlucky liquidators’ were also drawn up.
He insisted: ‘There is an option that Petrov and Boshirov were not liquidators – but performed some minor task.’
They might have ‘kept an eye on the area and passed information to the real liquidators’.
His account is likely to be dismissed by Britain as yet another bid by Moscow to muddy the water amid overwhelming evidence of the links of Petrov and Boshirov to the GRU.
Moscow has already come up with dozens of versions, the British have alleged.
But unusually the former GRU staffer conceded that the Russians use death squads, and might have done so in the Skripal case.
‘Of course, such people exist, not only in the Russian secret service but in any other too,’ he said.
He also claimed that the pair seen on CCTV may have been replaced by actors for the stilted RT broadcast last week when they went public to deny any involvement.
‘The main question about Petrov-Boshirov is not if they are killers or gay tourists,’ he said. The main one is if they are really Petrov and Boshirov.
‘It might well have been like this: the British secret service located two people and considered them to be liquidators.
‘And the Russian authorities quickly found two similar looking guys and “appointed” them Petrov and Boshirov.’
Unimpressed with their performance he said: ‘Somebody just did not spend much time searching – and first two suitable guys from the service were taken. They are soldiers and could not disobey the order.’
The pair in Salisbury should have been taught to watch out for CCTV cameras and mask their traces, he said.
‘The problem is that in England, as far as I know, the density of such cameras is very high.
‘So at the stage of preparation the task had to be different – not to avoid the cameras but to mask well. How to hide traces?
‘Well, the first thing is not to make any traces – not to live together (in the same hotel), not to arrive and leave together, not to approach the Skripals’ house together.’
Savaging their espionage tradecraft in Salisbury, he said: ‘If these two guys (Petrov and Boshirov) really are intelligence officers, if they were truly involved in this attempt to liquidate the Skripals, then it means that (our) whole authority has collapsed. And this is truly horrible.’
The only other option was that they were part of a ‘mafia’ operation to kill ex-GRU agent Skripal because he had been involved in criminal work, possibly in Spain, he said.
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