Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Investigative journalists say they have uncovered the true identity of one of the Russian men accused of poisoning former Moscow spy Sergei Skripal.
The man known as Ruslan Boshirov, they say, is actually Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated Russian intelligence colonel who received the "Hero of Russia" award in 2014, according to citizen journalism agency Bellingcat.
The investigative team at Bellingcat said it obtained leaked files that show Chepiga was deployed to Chechnya three times -- and includes old passport photos of his, which resemble the man British authorities named as Boshirov.
"This finding starkly contradicts both this man's statements ... and President Vladimir Putin's assertions that the person in question is merely a civilian named Ruslan Boshirov," Bellingcat said in its report.
British authorities charged Boshirov and Alexander Petrov with the March poisoning of Skripal and his daughter. The pair were attacked with the nerve agent novichok, which officials say was spread on a door knob to their home in Salisbury. British officials say the men are undercover officers for Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU.
Britain has not sought extradition because it knows Russia won't release them.
In a television interview with state-run RT, the men said they were tourists visiting Britain to see the cathedrals.
Putin has said the Russian government was not involved in the Skripals' poisoning.
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday controversy about the men's identities is a distraction to the main question of what happened and who is responsible.
"When will any sort of evidence be presented about the complicity of anyone in what London calls the poisoning in Salisbury?" she posted on Facebook.