United Kingdom poisoning suspects' 'tourism' claims raise eyebrows even in Russian Federation

Novichok suspects. Pic Russia Today

Image Novichok suspects

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

"What were you doing there?"

"Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town", the man known as Petrov told the RT TV network.

They said they visited Salisbury to see its famous cathedral.

Asked what could persuade London of the pair's innocence, he responded: "I can't see anything which could really change the British government's attitude and its conviction that these two men were perpetrators, that they were the ones who brought Novichok into the country".

The pair claimed they have been left fearing for their lives after Britain pointed to their involvement and said they were officers in Russian military intelligence service the GRU.

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Russia's state-funded RT television station will air an interview on Thursday with two Russians who have the same names as the men accused by Britain of trying to kill a former Russian spy and his daughter, RT's head said.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service has charged the two men, who are alleged to be members of the Russian intelligence agency, with conspiracy to murder, among other charges. RT has been told that no matter what, the United Kingdom will not change its view on the matter. Russian Federation has repeatedly denied any involvement in the case. RT said they refused to show their passports or give details on exactly what they do or where they work.

"They said if they found the pictures they would send them to me but I am still waiting".

According to British police, the two men arrived in London on March 2, a Friday, and spent two nights in an east London hotel.

"We went to Salisbury on the 3rd [of March]", said Petrov.

During the interview, Petrov and Boshirov claim to be "middle men" dealing in nutritional supplements, fitness, and health foods.

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Asked about apparent inconsistencies in the two men's story, 44-year-old Muscovite Ivan Raspopov joked: "You know, Russian tourists often become rather odd in the West".

Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal attends a hearing at the Moscow District Military Court in Moscow on August 9, 2006. From a credibility point of view, the British government must stick to that position, McCauley asserted.

"RT is already under intense scrutiny and this is certainly not going to help matters", said John Enser, a partner in media law at CMS in London.

"They are believed to have taken a similar route when they returned to London on the afternoon of Saturday, 3 March".

A handout picture taken at Salisbury train station in Salisbury, west of London on March 3, 2018, and released by the British Metropolitan Police Service in London on September 5, 2018, shows Alexander Petrov (R) and Ruslan Boshirov.

He added that "from the very beginning, Russian Federation has emphasized its desire to co-operate to clarify the circumstances of what happened in Salisbury and track down the culprits", but "the British side has strongly rejected such co-operation". Putin called them civilians and said there is "nothing criminal" about them. "You should ask [the United Kingdom police]". Investigators say Novichok, the nerve agent used in the attack, was carried in a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle.

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Before the interview, they had made her agree to a strict set of conditions to minimise the chance of being tracked down. British officials say they know the real names of the pair.

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