Published: Thu, September 13, 2018
Arts&Culture | By Matthew Castillo

Russians accused of poisoning ex-spy say they were just ‘tourists’

Russians accused of poisoning ex-spy say they were just ‘tourists’

Two men named as suspects in the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in the United Kingdom claim they were merely tourists.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told Russia Today (RT) they were only in Salisbury on 3 March as tourists to visit the cathedral and nearby Stonehenge.

The two men had some physical similarities to the men shown in British police images.

"Our friends recommended a long time ago that we visit that wonderful city", the man identifying himself as Petrov told RT. They then made a decision to return the next day.

"We have repeatedly asked Russian Federation to account for what happened in Salisbury in March", he added.

A European arrest warrant has been issued for the two suspects, but British prosecutors say they will not ask Moscow to extradite Russian citizens because Russia's constitution forbids it. Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief, who conducted the interview, said on Twitter that "their answers are their responsibility" and it's up to viewers to decide whether to believe the men, who were "extremely nervous and sweating".

They said they wanted to go to Stonehenge but were prevented from doing so because there was "muddy slush everywhere" so they got wet and went back to London an hour after arriving, as there was an intermittent weekend train service.

The Skripals survived being poisoned but a local man, Charlie Rowley, picked up a fake perfume bottle containing Novichok weeks later, British investigators have said. "Maybe we did [approach] Skripal's house, but we don't know where is it located".

Questioned on whether the pair were civilians, Mr Putin replied: 'Of course they are civilians'.

CCTV footage showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov on Fisherton Road, Salisbury, on March 4.

Chris Phillips, the former head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office said: "We trust those countries to do things the right way". In the interview the two suspects said these were their real names.

The two men's story, particularly their claim that they cut their visit short because of cold weather, and a light dusting of snow, was widely mocked by foreign correspondents in Moscow.

"Is it silly for decent lads to have women's perfume?", RT quoted Boshirov as saying in remarks translated into English.

The pair, who the United Kingdom suspect of being members of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, complained their lives had been "turned upside down" and RT said they sounded distressed during the interview.

Britain said Boshirov and Petrov are military intelligence agents who were dispatched to Salisbury to poison former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The Skripal case has been likened by British politicians to the murder of Russian dissident ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in a London hotel in 2006.

When asked to reveal personal details about themselves or explain why they were sharing a hotel room or taking trips together, Boshirov said: "Let's not pry into our private lives". At the airport, we always go down one corridor.

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