'Skripal suspects' tell Russian media they visited Britain as tourists

14 September, 2018, 19:18 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Salisbury Cathedral which the prime suspects in the Novichok nerve agent claimed to have been visiting

The men who said their real names were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov said they'd been tourists visiting the English city of Salisbury, where the poisoning took place, to see its cathedral.

Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia's state-funded RT, wrote on social media that she had met and interviewed two men called Petrov and Boshirov yesterday evening.

"What were you doing there?"

"Our friends had been suggesting for a long time we visit this wonderful town". It's famous for its 123-metre spire, it's famous for its clock, the first one [of its kind] ever created in the world, which is still working.

Britain immediately rejected the pair's claims which they described as "obfuscation and lies" and maintained the assertion of police and prosecutors that they were members of the GRU intelligence agency.

Both men sounded distressed as they spoke about how their lives had changed since they were named in the United Kingdom as Russian intelligence agents who attempted to poison the Skripals.

Britain said the attack was nearly surely approved at a top level of the Russian government.

They all recovered but a fake perfume bottle containing Novichok was picked up by a local man.

"We were just taking in the English gothic [style]", Boshirov said.

They said they were entrepreneurs but did not want to divulge details that could hurt their business which they said was linked to sports nutritional supplements.

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The interview comes a day after President Vladimir Putin said the two men were not criminals, reversing his government's previous claims that the names given by London were meaningless.

The two Russian men spun an unlikely tale of hapless tourists defeated by grim British weather: They traveled more than 1,000 miles to see England's famed Salisbury Cathedral but were turned back by slush and snow, then returned the next day and spent two hours exploring the "beautiful" city.

The men denied the allegations and said they visited Salisbury on March 3 for tourism but stayed for 30 minutes only.

"We, of course, checked who these people are", said Putin. They then chose to return the next day.

Russian Federation has denied any involved in the Britain attack.

The regulator said Thursday's interview had not yet triggered any new complaints but industry experts said the network had taken a big risk by airing the interview.

Footage has also emerged of the pair going in completely the opposite direction to visit the cathedral, an odd move considering both say they had visited to see the cathedral. "We didn't have it", Mr Boshirov said. They might have been spotted on the same street as the Skripals' house, they said, but they had no idea the former spy lived there.

Putin expressed hope they would come forward and speak publicly.

After the interview was aired, the British government reiterated its claim that Russian authorities were lying.

However, a European Arrest Warrant has been obtained in case they travel to the EU, and UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has warned that the men will be caught and prosecuted if they ever step out of Russian Federation. "The interview with Petrov and Boshirov had already been set, otherwise [Putin] wouldn't have spoken about them", political strategist Gleb Pavlovsky told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

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