By Andrey Ostroukh and Andrey Kuzmin
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Friday a likeness between a Russian intelligence colonel and a suspect in the Skripal poisoning case does not prove they are the same person, comparing the resemblance to that of impersonators posing as Lenin.
Former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a public bench in the English city of Salisbury in March. Britain says they were poisoned with a nerve agent administered by Russian intelligence officers. A woman later died from what British police say was contact with the poison which her partner found in a discarded perfume bottle.
Russia denies any involvement in the affair, which has deepened its international isolation.
Moscow says two Russian men captured on surveillance footage near the scene of the poisoning were tourists visiting Salisbury twice during a weekend trip to Britain, an explanation London says is so far-fetched as to all but prove Russia’s involvement.
Investigative website Bellingcat this week published a picture of a decorated Russian military intelligence colonel it named as Anatoliy Chepiga who resembles one of the men spotted in the surveillance footage.
“We don’t know to what extent we can make any formal conclusions about who looks like whom, are they alike, where they lived, where they grew up,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
“On Red Square there are still 10 Stalins and 15 Lenins running around, and they look remarkably like the originals,” he said, referring to people who dress up as Soviet leaders to pose for photographs with tourists.
Peskov said in order to draw any conclusions, the Russian authorities needed verified information from British officials about the Skripal case, something he said London has been consistently withholding.
“We do not want to participate anymore in the propagation of this issue as a partner of the media,” said Peskov.
(Reporting and writing by Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by Christian Lowe and Peter Graff)