Rus­sian poi­son sus­pects’ claims of in­no­cence ridiculed

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - World -

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.

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