Former Federal Security Service officer Konstantin Lapin made extraordinary allegations in a documentary aired by REN TV, a media firm chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s apparent new partner, Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gold winning gymnast.
The smear campaign follows claims by suspected Novichok poisoners Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov that they only went to Salisbury to see the Wiltshire city’s tourist sites last March.
Lapin served time in a high security jail with Skripal, 67, who was convicted of treason for spying for Britain. He claimed he was made aware of “strange rumours” about Skripal, adding: “I can’t give you any evidence.” He made a sick allegation which this newspaper has chosen not to repeat.
Lapin described his former cellmate as a “faceless man”, adding: “He was present everywhere but nowhere. It is something typical for all spies. He was an intelligent man, this is true. He could speak two or three languages.”
Skripal was pardoned by the Kremlin before being swapped with Russian spy Anna Chapman in a Cold War-style exchange in 2010.
He and his 34-year-old daughter are recovering in Britain from the appalling chemical weapon attack, which nearly killed them.
British mother Dawn Sturgess died after inadvertently spraying herself with what she thought was perfume but was in fact a discarded bottle of the poison, which had been found by her partner, Charlie Rowley, who is still suffering the effects of being poisoned himself.
The REN TV documentary was at pains to deny that Petrov and Bochirov were gay – as believed by many after their appearance on the Kremlin owned Russia Today channel.
Biological weapons expert Igor Nikulin insisted it would have been impossible for the pair to go to Salisbury and spray the nerve agent without killing “at least half of the citizens there”. Alexander Pokrovsky, a military chemist, said if the attack was unleashed in the way Britain had suggested then they would have been “dead before they were admitted to hospital”.
A former Skripal classmate and friend Vladimir Timoshkov, said he spoke to him on social media ahead of the attack and claimed the Russian expressed regret for working as a double agent for Britain.
He said: “Of course, he regretted everything very much. He said, ‘If only could I change everything back, I’d have behaved in a different way’.” British officials have described the Novichok suspect’s TV appearance as “risible” and accused Russia of responding to the entire episode “with obfuscation and lies”.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson branded the two Russian “tourists” murderers and challenged them to sue him if they dispute it.
Meanwhile Swiss prosecutors are investigating whether Russian agents tried to hack the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Office of the Attorney General said yesterday, broadening the scope of alleged espionage against institutions in Switzerland. Criminal proceedings were launched in March 2017 on suspicion of political espionage, the OAG said in a statement.
“As part of these proceedings the OAG was able to identify two individuals,” it said. The OAG said the individuals were the same pair identified by the Swiss intelligence service which has said it had foiled a Russian plot targeting a Swiss laboratory used to test nerve agents such as Novichok.
Swiss media said the WADA offices and International Olympic Committee in Lausanne had both been targeted.
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