Russian duo deny involvement in poison plot against former spy
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.
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.