Skri­pal sus­pects deny mur­der claim

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

MOSCOW — Two men ac­cused by the United King­dom of poi­son­ing former Rus­sian spy Sergei Skri­pal de­nied in­volve­ment in the mur­der at­tempt in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day that Lon­don dis­missed as “an in­sult to the pub­lic’s in­tel­li­gence”.

Speak­ing with the head of the RT news net­work, the pair con­firmed they were the men whose pic­tures Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties re­leased this month, but in­sisted they were vis­it­ing the English city of Sal­is­bury as tourists.

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

In a 25-minute in­ter­view, the men said these were their real names but in­sisted they did not work for Rus­sia’s GRU mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence agency, as Bri­tain claims.

RT said the men sounded dis­tressed and were sweat­ing as they spoke.

Both ap­peared to be about 40 years old, and they wore dark blue jumpers.

Hours be­fore the in­ter­view on Wed­nes­day evening, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said Rus­sia had iden­ti­fied the men sought by Bri­tain and urged the pair to ad­dress the me­dia.

“They are civil­ians,” Putin said, adding there was noth­ing crim­i­nal about them.

Bri­tain said the at­tack was al­most cer­tainly ap­proved “at a se­nior level of the Rus­sian state”, an al­le­ga­tion that Moscow has ve­he­mently de­nied.

The United States said it is plan­ning a new set of “very se­vere” sanc­tions on Rus­sia over its al­leged use of the Novi­chok nerve agent in the March 4 poi­son­ing of Skri­pal and his daugh­ter Yu­lia, As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Man­isha Singh told a con­gres­sional hear­ing on Thurs­day.

Down­ing Street on Thurs­day called the RT in­ter­view “an in­sult to the pub­lic’s in­tel­li­gence”.

Skri­pal and his daugh­ter sur­vived, but a Bri­tish cou­ple, Dawn Sturgess and Char­lie Row­ley, came into con­tact with the same nerve agent in a town near Sal­is­bury months later. Sturgess died.

Petrov and Boshi­rov said they ar­rived in Bri­tain on March 2 and trav­eled to Sal­is­bury the next day to see the sights.

They left af­ter no more than an hour be­cause of poor weather and heavy snow, but re­turned to the city the next day — March 4, the day of the at­tack.

Per­fume vial

Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties said the sus­pects trav­eled to Sal­is­bury twice to pre­pare for the at­tack and then carry it out.

“Friends have been telling us for a long time we should visit this beau­ti­ful city,” said Petrov.

“We went there to see Stone­henge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it be­cause there was muddy slush ev­ery­where,” he added, re­fer­ring to fa­mous local land­marks.

Boshi­rov, sport­ing a goa­tee, de­nied the pair knew any­thing about Skri­pal or the lo­ca­tion of his house.

“We walked around and en­joyed this English Gothic ar­chi­tec­ture,” he said.

Bri­tain al­leges the nerve agent used to poi­son the Skri­pals was car­ried in a per­fume vial, which Boshi­rov dis­missed by say­ing: “Don’t you think it’s kind of stupid for two straight men to carry per­fume for ladies?”

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