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

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

The two men named by Britain as suspects in the attempted murder of a former Russian spy said on Thursday they were merely sightseeing in the small English town and have been wrongly accused.

The men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, told the Kremlin-financed network Russia Today that they had traveled from Moscow to the English provincial city of Salisbury in March to visit its ancient cathedral, not to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a former double agent who sold secrets to Britain.

When asked why they were in Salisbury, the men said: "Our friends had been suggesting for a long time we visit this wonderful town".

Chris Phillips, the former head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office said: "We trust those countries to do things the right way. 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".

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 it was clear the two men, who appeared on Russia's state-funded RT television, were agents of Russia's GRU military intelligence who carried out the attack, and their interview an example of Russia's "obfuscation and lies".

Britain has said the two suspects were Russian military intelligence officers nearly certainly acting on orders from high up in the Russian state.

"We arrived in Salisbury on March 3 and tried to walk through the town, but we lasted for only half an hour because it was covered in snow", Petrov said.

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The men denied they work for Russian military intelligence and described themselves as businessmen.

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. "Buy tickets to London right now, it's just an hour's trip away by train", the firm tweeted on Thursday, adding a link to their product. "I have seen nothing to suggest that has changed".

Russian Federation has repeatedly denied any involvement in the case. In the interview the two suspects said these were their real names.

"We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn't do it because there was muddy slush everywhere", Petrov said, referring to local landmarks.

In the 25-minute video, the pair said they now fear for their lives, and hinted that British secret services want to bring them harm. "We'll see in the near future". They returned the next day to see the sights.

The two men surfaced a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russian Federation had located Petrov and Boshirov, but that there was nothing special or criminal about them.

He tweeted that he was "delighted" the men were able to visit Salisbury's "world-class attractions", but said it was "very unusual to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage".

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