Rus­sian duo deny in­volve­ment in poison plot against for­mer spy

The Witness - - NEWS -

MOSCOW — Two Rus­sians re­sem­bling men Bri­tain ac­cuses of jet­ting to Eng­land to mur­der a for­mer spy said yes­ter­day that they were in­no­cent tourists who had flown to Lon­don for fun and vis­ited the city of Sal­is­bury to see its cathe­dral.

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”.

The two men, who ap­peared deeply un­com­fort­able, iden­ti­fied them­selves as Alexan­der Petrov and Rus­lan Boshi­rov, the names Bri­tish pros­e­cu­tors said were used by the poi­son­ers. They said they had fallen vic­tim to a “fan­tas­ti­cal co­in­ci­dence”.

Bri­tain has charged the two men with at­tempt­ing to mur­der for­mer Rus­sian spy Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter Yu­lia by spray­ing a chem­i­cal weapon on Skri­pal’s door in March.

The Skri­pals and a po­lice of­fi­cer fell se­ri­ously ill. A woman in a nearby town later died af­ter her part­ner brought home a dis­carded coun­ter­feit Nina Ricci per­fume bot­tle con­tain­ing the poison.

The two men said they were civil­ians in the sports nutri­tion busi­ness.

“Our friends had been sug­gest­ing for a long time that we visit this won­der­ful town,” Petrov said of Sal­is­bury.

Asked about the in­ter­view, a Bri­tish gov­ern­ment spokesper­son said: “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.”

Bri­tain and dozens of other coun­tries have kicked out scores of Rus­sian diplo­mats over the in­ci­dent, and Moscow has re­sponded tit-for-tat in the big­gest EastWest wave of ex­pul­sions since the Cold War. The af­fair has wors­ened Rus­sian re­la­tions with the West.

Ac­cord­ing to Bri­tish po­lice, the two men ar­rived in Lon­don on March 2, a Fri­day, and spent two nights in an east Lon­don ho­tel. They vis­ited Sal­is­bury twice by train on day trips — on the Satur­day for re­con­nais­sance and on the Sun­day to poison Skri­pal. They then went straight to the air­port and flew home, hours af­ter the Skri­pals were found un­con­scious on a bench. — Reuters.

PHOTO: RT CHAN­NEL VIDEO VIA AP

In this video grab pro­vided by the RT chan­nel, Rus­lan Boshi­rov (left) and Alexan­der Petrov at­tend their first pub­lic ap­pear­ance in an in­ter­view with the Krem­lin-funded RT chan­nel in Moscow, Rus­sia, yes­ter­day.

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