Wednesday January 22nd, 2020 10:12PM

Russian suspect in UK poisoning is hero to his home village

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LOYGA, Russia (AP) — As the recipient of Russia's highest award, Alexander Mishkin is the pride of his home village, his photo even decorating a local school.

Several residents of this remote hamlet located amid marshlands and deep forests in Russia's northwestern Arkhangelsk region easily recognized him in photos Wednesday as one of two men accused by British officials of poisoning a former Russian spy.

But to them he is just a warm-hearted local boy, a "Hero of Russia" who has made a successful career as a military doctor thanks to his hard work and courage.

"He studied at school here," said Yuri Poroshin, an amateur painter who lives in Loyga. "His picture even hangs on the wall there because he's a Hero of Russia."

Poroshin said he heard that Mishkin received Russia's highest medal for saving the life of his commanding officer during fighting with Islamist rebels in Chechnya.

According to British police, two agents of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, traveling under the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, used the Soviet-made nerve agent Novichok to poison former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury in March.

This week, the investigative group Bellingcat identified Petrov as Dr. Alexander Mishkin, a GRU agent who had received Russia's highest award. Previously the group had uncovered the real identity of Boshirov, determining that he is GRU Col. Anatoly Chepiga.

Bellingcat, which based its probe on passport information, residents' databases, car registration documents and phone records, determined that the 39-year-old Mishkin grew up in Loyga before moving to St. Petersburg, where he studied medicine at the elite Kirov Military Medical Academy.

Some Loyga residents corroborated that account, confirming that Mishkin was trained as a military doctor.

They said he continued to visit Loyga, where his 90-year-old grandmother, a respected local general practitioner, still lives.

Poroshin's wife, Valentina Poroshina, fondly remembers Mishkin, whom she last spoke to on a train four years ago. "He was a good boy," she said. "He was very polite."

Poroshin also immediately recognized Mishkin when shown the photos released by British police. "Yes, that's him. He looks like his dad and grandmother," he said.

The Poroshins' granddaughter, Yulia, said that Mishkin was lauded as a role model at her school. "We even have a portfolio on him," the sixth-grader said.

Several other villagers also recognized Mishkin but wouldn't talk about him further.

However, village manager Svetlana Lukina denied the man in the photos was Mishkin, saying she didn't recognize him.

"People are looking for something to entertain themselves with," Lukina said nervously after being shown the pictures by an Associated Press reporter. "They make it all up out of nothing. His family hasn't lived here for a long time. It's all rumors and hearsay."

On Wednesday, the village was largely desolate, with only the occasional big-wheeled all-terrain vehicle able to navigate its unpaved dirt roads. A few people, some of them drunk, passed by on its streets covered with wooden planks.

"Only those who have nowhere to go are left here," Poroshin said. "Only drinkers and pensioners are left. Good young people are all gone."

The gray two-story brick school building was locked on Wednesday, a note announcing a ban on taking photos and videos pinned next to the door. A school employee told an AP reporter through the glass pane to go away.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, refused to confirm that Putin awarded Mishkin the Hero of Russia medal. He insisted that the Kremlin wouldn't discuss investigative reports and media articles on the Skripal poisoning in the absence of official British requests for information.

Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer turned double agent for Britain and his visiting daughter spent weeks in critical condition after the March 4 attack. In June, two area residents who apparently came across a discarded vial that contained the poison also fell ill; one of them died.

Britain claims the poisoning was authorized "at a senior level of the Russian state," something both the Kremlin and the suspects have vehemently denied.

Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent Moscow-based military analyst, said that the Salisbury attack marked a dangerous escalation of the rift between Russia and the West.

"The Russians are kind of treating Western Europe as Western Europe is treating Syria and Afghanistan— as a battle zone — if it's going in with special ops people to run operations," he said.


Associated Press writers Kate de Pury and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Coroner: Verne Troyer death suicide by alcohol intoxication
The Los Angeles County coroner says diminutive actor Verne Troyer died last April of suicide by alcohol intoxication
6:04PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Trump campaigns in Pennsylvania as hurricane hits Florida
President Donald Trump is taking his campaign blitz to Pennsylvania, rallying Republicans as Hurricane Michael pounds Florida's Panhandle
5:57PM ( 12 minutes ago )
The Latest: Alabamians urged to stay off roads during storm
Hurricane Michael downed trees and power lines as it began its push inland. The National Hurricane Center said the core of Hurricane Michael will push through southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia Wednesday evening
5:57PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Category 3 Michael approaches Alabama, Georgia
The National Hurricane Center says Michael has lost some power, but it remains a dangerous Category 3 storm as it approaches an area where Florida, Alabama and Georgia meet.
5:31PM ( 38 minutes ago )
California judge will order new trial in $289M Roundup award
A San Francisco judge said in a tentative ruling Wednesday that she would order a new trial in a $289 million judgment against agribusiness giant Monsanto
5:22PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Storm offers exposure, risk to Democrat in governor's race
Hurricane Michael brings exposure, and risk, to Democrat running for Florida governor
5:17PM ( 52 minutes ago )
AP National News
Dow industrials sink 831 points as tech companies plunge
Stocks take their worst loss in eight months as US indexes slide for the fifth day in a row, led by drops in big technology companies
4:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump trashes Democrats' Medicare for All plan in op-ed
President Donald Trump is stepping up his attack on Democrats over a health care proposal called Medicare for All
1:25PM ( 4 hours ago )
Toke off! Marijuana is set to become legal across Canada
Next week, Canada becomes the largest country with a legal national marijuana market, but rollout will vary from province to province
1:17PM ( 4 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
More than 100 pot shops set to open as Canada legalizes weed
More than 100 licensed pot shops are expected to open next week when Canada becomes the second and largest nation to legalize the adult use of marijuana.
4:33PM ( 1 hour ago )
Turkish media: Video shows team of alleged Saudi assassins
Turkish media have shown video of what they called a 15-member Saudi "assassination squad" landing in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and they linked the group to the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate later that day
3:36PM ( 2 hours ago )
Spark it up, eh! Canada prepares for legalized marijuana
More than 100 licensed pot shops are expected to open next week when Canada becomes the second and largest nation to legalize the adult use of marijuana.
2:40PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP World News
The Latest: Alabamians urged to stay off roads during storm
Hurricane Michael downed trees and power lines as it began its push inland. The National Hurricane Center said the core of Hurricane Michael will push through southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia Wednesday evening
5:57PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Roberts asks federal judges to handle Kavanaugh complaints
Chief Justice John Roberts is referring judicial misconduct complaints against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to federal judges in Colorado and neighboring states
5:49PM ( 21 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump says Fed 'has gone crazy' after stock drop
President Donald Trump says the Federal Reserve "has gone crazy" after a major drop in stock prices Wednesday
5:46PM ( 25 minutes ago )
The Latest: White House says Trump focused on hurricane
The White House says President Donald Trump is focused on Hurricane Michael even as he travels to Pennsylvania for a fundraiser and rally
5:39PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Colson Whitehead novel 'The Nickel Boys' coming next July
Colson Whitehead's next novel after "The Underground Railroad" is another look at the country's tragic past
5:38PM ( 32 minutes ago )