The Skripal Investigation, the next revelation.

On Saturday The Guardian Newspaper published a story which said: “The Russian men suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury received a phone call after returning to London on the day of the alleged attack, raising the possibility that a backup team played a role in the operation.

One theory being considered by investigators is whether the call, which has not been disclosed before, was a signal to tip them off that the operation had been a success.”

So, what does this mean, how significant is it and is there more we can deduce from this new snippet released by the Metropolitan Police?

It gives an understanding to more detail that could be out there, and yes, it is very significant, so lots more can be deduced! Philip Ingram MBE a former British Military Intelligence Officer explains some of the things that the investigators will have and what this means.

The first thing that this statement confirms is the probable existence of a second team. This is something that the Grey Hare Media team have been saying over and over again in the numerous Skripal related Grey Hare Blogs, the last of which is here:

What it does suggest is that the second team (and there could even have been a third) were there during the operation carried out by Chepiga and Mishkin and remained there afterwards. They were providing overwatch and checking to see if the operation was a success.  Although it is a bit of a speculative jump, there is a possibility they are part of a clandestine Russian unit permanently in the Salisbury area (suggested here: However, it is unlikely that anyone involved in deep cover operations would get involved in something so dynamic, unless resources were scarce. 

It could also explain the ‘sealed’ bottle of Novichok that Charlie Rowley found some time later. There could have been a second bottle left as a back-up in case the first attempt failed. 

The next thing it confirms is that Chepiga and Mishkin has a phone they used on the operation. This is almost certainly a UK pay as you go, unregistered “burner” phone and the fact they received a “phone call”, rather than a call being made over a secure App such as Threema or WhatsApp, would suggest the phone wasn’t a smart phone. This would make sense as smart phones, with their built in GPS capabilities, are much easier to track once identified. 

So how would they have identified the phone?  Well, all phones operate using a SIM card and each SIM card has a unique International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number which consists of the users account number, network code and telephone number. There is a second number, and this is the International Mobile Equipment Identity, (IMEI) number that relates to the handset and remains the same even if the SIM is changed. 

When mobile phones are switched on, they transmit these numbers to local phone cells to “check in” and do the same each time they make a call.   The mobile network is divided into a series of cells with a base station at the centre of each cell and they can hand calls across to each other, giving seamless coverage to the user. 

If the police have identified a call being made it means they almost certainly know the IMSI and IMEI numbers linked to that call and to all other calls to and from that handset or SIM. The GRU network will have likely been identified.

The police will have been looking at base station activity corresponding with the times Chepiga and Mishkin were on their train journeys, in Salisbury, other travel rotes they will have taken in London and near their accommodation in London to see if they could identify on IMEI or IMSI number that was consistent and ideally both.  The huge amounts of data they will have had to crunch through to do this is unimaginable but shows the effort that is being put in to the Skripal Investigation. It is highly probable that the computing power of the government listening agency, GCHQ will have been used for this part of the investigation. 

With this information, a more detailed understanding of the movements of the GRU officers and any associates who they have communicated with can be deduced if the phones and SIMs have been connected to the network more than one time only. 

With this level of detail going into the investigation, there is a lot more yet to be exposed.

Note: This blog is written by Philip Ingram MBE, a former British Military Intelligence Officer and Colonel, who was based near Salisbury in the past. If you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE