Russian poison suspects’ claims of innocence ridiculed
Two Russian men’s claims that they were innocent tourists wrongly branded would-be assassins met with mockery in Britain on Friday and even raised eyebrows in the usually patriotic Russian media.
The men said far from plotting to poison a turncoat spy with a deadly nerve agent, they had actually just been in England to admire the Gothic architecture in Salisbury.
In an interview aired by Russian broadcaster RT on Thursday, the men – identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – said they had nothing to do with the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
The poisoning on March 4 dragged Moscow’s relations with London and other Western powers to a low point not seen since the Cold War.
London said the two men were Russian agents, which Moscow denies.
The interview prompted scorn and mockery in Britain.
“The last time Russian military claimed to be on holiday was when they invaded Ukraine in 2014,” foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted.
In Russia meanwhile, the Kommersant newspaper questioned why the men were not able to show identification or give further details about their work or private lives.
Petrov and Boshirov said they worked as entrepreneurs in the fitness and supplements industries, but business paper RBK said it had found no business registered under their two names in Russia.
The paper also noted they showed no evidence they had ever made it to Salisbury cathedral, which they cited as the city’s main draw.
Social media users in Russia and Britain were scathing of the claims. “The Spy Who Went Home Because It Was Cold,” a Twitter user wrote.
Yet some on the streets of Moscow took the men’s claims at face value. “They’re a normal pair who just got into trouble, I’m sure they feel pretty bad now,” said Leonid, a 58-yearold entrepreneur.
The Kremlin dismissed as absurd London’s claim that the interview contained “lies and blatant fabrications”.
The Russians are accused of putting the nerve agent Novichok on the front door handle of former double agent Skripal in the poisoning attack on March 4.