The two men who allegedly carried out the deadly Novichok attack in Salisbury were part of a larger team of Russian secret agents operating in western Europe and based in France, it has been claimed.
According to French daily Le Monde today (Thursday), British intelligence, working with the French, the Swiss and the Americans identified 15 Russian assassins – including Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – working for the Russian GRU military intelligence service and who were based in Chamonix, Annemasse and Evian, in the alpine Haute-Savoie department of eastern France.
The Russian spies were allegedly involved in assassination operations across Europe as of 2014 and were present on French soil as late as September 2018, according to the French daily.
These agents were reportedly part of a mysterious “unit 29155” from the “161st GRU training centre”, and operated all over Europe, notably in the United Kingdom, in Bulgaria, in France, in Crimea in Ukraine, in Moldavia and in Montenegro, among others.
Le Monde report that London identified one of the agents as one of the three culprits guilty of poisoning the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in England.
The incident caused major diplomatic tensions between the European Union and Moscow and triggered a search by western intelligence services to track down those responsible. The revelations by Le Monde come just as Germany has accused Moscow of being behind the assassination of a Georgian in Berlin in August.
Berlin has ordered that two members of the Russian embassy leave the country immediately for having failed to cooperate with the German authorities’ investigation.
The 15 officers mentioned by Le Monde today reportedly did not carry out operations on French soil, but used the country as a base of operations, staying in small towns such as Annemasse, Chamonix and Evian, and sometimes even smaller towns.
The newspaper reports that the officers, part of this “unit 29155”, engaged in “assassination, sabotage or more obscure tasks such as running dead drops.”
Le Monde quotes an unnamed, high-ranking French intelligence officer as saying that these spies used the Haute-Savoie, which borders Switzerland and Italy, as a “support base for the totality of the clandestine operations of unit 29155 in Europe.”
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