The Prague-based Cesky Rozhlas broadcaster reported on Wednesday, citing Czech intelligence sources, that Russian citizens Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov accused by UK authorities of poisoning former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the town of Salisbury, secretly visited the Czech Republic in October 2014, where Skripal himself was supposed to arrive at the same time to meet with Czech intelligence officers.
According to the broadcaster, it looks like "the Russians had a special group" and followed Skripal well before "attempting to kill him."
The sources cited by the broadcaster said that Skripal visited the Czech Republic to assist local intelligence with the discovery of possible Russian spies in the country. The sources are convinced that Boshirov and Petrov already tracked Skripal at that time, the publication claimed.
According to the publication, Petrov lived in a hotel in the city of Ostrava in the country's northeast from October 13 to October 16, 2014, and then moved to Prague, while Boshirov visited Prague on October 11, 2014. The broadcaster added that the presence of the two Russian citizens in the Czech Republic was probed both by the local intelligence and the National Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (NCOZ). However, due to the fact that the Skripal case is being under investigation throughout Europe, no one in the Czech Republic commented on this information, including the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) and the NCOZ, the media outlet said.
Russian Embassy in Prague told the publication that the questions about crossing the border of the Czech Republic by citizens of other states are within the competence of the relevant Czech authorities.
In early September, UK prosecutors charged Petrov and Boshirov with the attempted murder of the Skripals and UK police officer Nick Bailey in the UK city of Salisbury in March. UK Prime Minister Theresa May expressed a belief that the suspects worked for the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (formerly known as the GRU), albeit without providing any evidence.
In late September, Bellingcat claimed that it could "definitely confirm" that Petrov and Boshirov are active GRU officers. Such an assumption was explained by the fact that their internal passport under these names were issued in 2009, while no records allegedly exist for these individuals prior to this year. Later that month, the group in cooperation with The Insider Russia media outlet claimed that they had identified Boshirov as Russian military intelligence colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.
Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov has said that "the Directorate of the Federal Migration Service has no departments that were subordinates of the GRU or someone else." He added that it was impossible to understand whether a person works in the GRU just by looking at the migration service's database. The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has also criticized the materials issued by Bellingcat.
Moscow has repeatedly denied all accusations in the Skripal case, saying it was falling apart due to the lack of evidence proving the purported Russian involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry has sent some 60 diplomatic notes to the UK Foreign Office demanding that Russia be given access to the investigation and the Skripals, as well as proposing legal assistance and cooperation, including on the joint inquiry. The UK authorities have not responded to any of these notes.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)