A furious Vladimir Putin has given a dressing-down to the head of Russia’s military spy agency over its “deep incompetence” as it emerged the second suspect in the Salisbury nerve agent attack is another highly decorated intelligence officer.

Colonel-General Igor Korobov, the head of the GRU, was hauled before the Russian President following not only the nerve agent attack in Britain but also after four of the country’s spies were expelled from Holland following a botched attempt to hack into the international chemical weapons agency watchdog, which was analysing the chemical used in Salisbury and identified as Novichok.

The 62-year-old spy chief was described after emerging from his meeting with Mr Putin as shaken and in sudden “ill health”.

It was also suggested that a meeting at the Russian defence ministry, which oversees the GRU, exploded into recriminations over the “morons” behind the spy operations in Britain and the Netherlands.

One intelligence chief was said to have complained: “Why didn’t you just wear Budenovka hats?” The hats are emblazoned with the Soviet red star.

At a Westminster news conference, Cristo Grozev of the Bellingcat investigative website explained how Alexander Mishkin, a military doctor in the GRU intelligence agency and identified as one of the Salisbury poisoners, had received the award of Hero of the Russian Federation personally from Mr Putin.

Mr Grozev said reporters from the Russian website The Insider had managed to reach Mishkin's home village of Loyga, where they spoke to seven people who confirmed his identity.

"They confirmed that their homeboy Alexander Mishkin was the person who moved on to military school and then became a famous military doctor and who received the award of Hero of the Russian Federation personally from President Putin," he explained.

"His grandmother, with whom he grew up who happens to be a medical professional, has a photograph - in her own words, that has been seen by everybody in the village - of President Putin shaking Mishkin's hand and giving him the award," added Mr Grozev.

Mishkin’s accomplice in the Salisbury poisoning, already identified as Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, is a senior officer in the Russian military intelligence service, who is also a Hero of the Russian Federation, having received his award personally from Mr Putin as well.

Mishkin, who used the alias Alexander Petrov, and Chepiga, who used that of Ruslan Boshirov, claimed to be tourists visiting Salisbury after they were identified as the poisoning suspects.

Moscow has denied any culpability and dismissed claims that Mishkin and Chepiga are Russian military spies as “fantasy politics”. Their target, Sergei Skripal, a former GRU agent, has been described by Mr Putin as a “scumbag”.

Last week, the Kremlin dismissed as “paranoia” and “propaganda” claims that a UK and Dutch security operation had caught four Russian GRU agents “in flagrante” as they tried to hack into the international chemical weapons agency in The Hague. Spying equipment, phones, train ticket receipts and more than £30,000 in cash was recovered from their car.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, put their arrest and deportation from the Netherlands down to a “misunderstanding”.