- Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov have been accused by the UK of attempting to murder a former spy with a rare nerve agent in Salisbury, England.
- They defended themselves in a bizarre interview with Russian state TV on Thursday.
- The told RT that they were only in Salisbury for tourism, and wanted to see the cathedral, its clock, and nearby Stonehenge.
- UK Prime Minister Theresa May says the two men are Russian intelligence officers, claims which they and the Russian government has denied.
The two men accused by the UK of attempting to assassinate a Russian double-agent with nerve poison have defended themselves, claiming they were only at the site of the killing because they wanted to see a cathedral.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who were accused by Britain last week of trying to kill Sergei Skripal, gave an interview to Russian state television which aired on Thursday.
They told state-controlled outlet RT News that they were in Salisbury, where Skripal and his daughter were poisoned, because their friends had recommended its “famous cathedral.”
After the interview aired, the British government dismissed it as “obfuscation and lies,” while the MP for Salisbury said the men’s account was “not credible.”
Borishov told interviewer Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief:
“Our friends had been suggesting for a long time we visit this wonderful town. There’s the famous Salisbury cathedral, famous not only in Europe but in the whole world, it’s famous for its 123m spire, it’s famous for its clock, one of the first ever created in the world that’s still working.”
The two men confirmed that they were the men pictured travelling to and from Salisbury in images published by Britain’s Metropolitan Police. But they denied any involvement with the poisoning. They continued:
“Of course, we went to Salisbury to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere. The town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back [to London].”
An except of the full interview was shown on RT News on Thursday morning, and an additional transcript can be seen here.
Simonyan asked the men during the exchange whether they are GRU officers. They said they were not, and actually work in the sports nutrition industry.
The Member of Parliament for Salisbury, John Glen, said the interview made by the suspects to RT is “not credible” and “does not match intelligence we have on the individuals,” Sky News reported.
After the interview went live, a Government spokesperson told Business Insider:
“The Police and Crown Prosecution Service have identified these men as the prime suspects in relation to the attack in Salisbury.
“The Government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service – the GRU – who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country.
“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March. Today – just as we have seen throughout – they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”
On September 5, Britain formally charged Petrov and Boshirov over Skripal’s poisoning, and that of his daughter Yulia, in March of this year.
The same day, Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament that Petrov and Boshirov are officers from the Russian intelligence services, also known as the GRU.
The Metropolitan Police published photographs of the men in Salisbury to accompany the news of their being charged:
Russia has consistently denied ordering the attack, or having any knowledge of it.