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

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov

They also said they worked in the fitness industry, not the Russian military, and that they'd been in fear of their lives since Britain outed them as being responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok in England.

"Friends have been telling us for a long time we should visit this attractive city", said the broad-shouldered Petrov.

"Salisbury?" their interviewer asked.

"It is London's official stance and we regret to say that it is impossible to make any assumptions, unfortunately", Mr Peskov said. It's famous not only in Europe, but in the whole world.

They said they had cut short their visit and returned home early without visiting Stonehenge because of the snow.

Skripal, who was jailed in Russian Federation for betraying dozens of military intelligence officers in the 1990s, came to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.

And British journalists have been mocking the story on Twitter, highlighting the improbability of the pair's itinerary and route if they were truly tourists.

In Thursday's interview (Friday NZ time) with the Kremlin-funded RT channel, the suspects, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, said they were simply tourists catching the sights in Salisbury about the same time as the attack.

The Russian government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Novichok attack and have floated numerous conspiracy theories about who the "real" perpetrators might be.

The two men's actual identities are a matter of dispute.

British security services named the two men as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov but said these were likely to be aliases.

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The Moscow-based editor-in-chief of RT, Margarita Simonyan, said that the two men had contacted her by phone and she spent an evening with them before the clips of the interview were aired on Thursday. "I mean people who often work undercover, including the intelligence services".

The men say that their lives have been "turned upside down" by the allegations and want an apology. British politicians immediately called the interview "not credible".

Skripal, his daughter, and a police officer were left gravely ill by exposure to Novichok in March.

Officers formally linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury where Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent. Police believe the perfume bottle had been specially adapted to carry the poison.

Now, the two men have appeared on Russian TV in an freakish interview that included their denials - but also indirect questions about their sexual preferences, awkward stares and accounts of the weather in the quaint English town of Salisbury in early March 2017. They are both now in a secure location. When you go through customs, they check all your belongings.

They visited Salisbury twice by train on day trips - on the Saturday for reconnaissance and on the Sunday to poison Skripal.

They say the objective of the men's visit to Salisbury on 3 March was reconnaissance, and on 4 March they returned to apply Novichok to the Skripals' front door.

British police used surveillance camera footage from airports, transit stations, and elsewhere to outline the pair's movements.

That is the story that Russian Federation wanted us to believe; the story of two individuals who supposedly were just wayward tourists in Britain and were just caught up in one of the most freakish and strangest spying stories of the decade. The two Russians entered the United Kingdom on an Aeroflot flight on March 2, departing March 4.

So while they were seen close to the Skripals' house they would also have had enough time to see the cathedral.

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