The two men accused of poisoning a Russian former spy and his daughter in the U.K. said they were only in Britain as tourists.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — British police believe those names are fake — gave their first press interview to RT, Russia’s state-funded television channel, on Thursday. Last week they were charged by U.K. authorities with conspiracy and the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a Russian ex-spy who passed information to the British, as well as his daughter Yulia and a police officer investigating the poisoning.
The men confirmed they visited Salisbury twice, on March 2 and 3.
Asked why they were in Salisbury at the time of the poisoning in March, Petrov told RT: “Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town.” Boshirov added that there is “the famous Salisbury Cathedral — famous not only in Europe but in the whole world. It’s famous for its 123-meter spire, it’s famous for its clock, one of the first ever created in the world that’s still working.”
However, the pair said their efforts at sightseeing were hampered by the British weather.
Petrov said: “We came there [to Salisbury] on March 2, then went to a railway station to see the timetable. We arrived in Salisbury on March 3 and tried to walk through the town, but we lasted for only half an hour because it was covered in snow.” Photos of the pair in England released to the press by police show small patches of snow on the ground. According to an investigation by the Guardian into the Russians’ movements, the temperature in Moscow in early March was -10C.
“Of course, we went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” Petrov said. “The town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back [to London].”
“We spent no more than an hour in Salisbury, mainly because of the lags between trains,” Boshirov said. “Maybe we did [approach] Skripal’s house, but we don’t know where is it located.”
They added that their lives had been “turned upside down” by the British investigation. “You don’t know what to do and where to go. We’re afraid of going out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones,” Boshirov said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May last week said she believed the two men were officers of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service and employed directly by the Russian state. British police say the pair sprayed the military-grade nerve agent Novichok on the front door of Skripal’s home before travelling home to Russia later that day.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the two men to speak to the media. At an economic conference in Vladivostok, Putin said the two men were innocent and “civilians.”
Shortly after the interview aired, Salisbury Cathedral tweeted that it does indeed have a 123-meter spire, the tallest in Britain.
Salisbury Cathedral’s spire is the tallest in Britain, reaching the impressive height of 123m! It is no wonder that it can be seen for miles around and plays such a significant part of the surrounding landscape.
Photograph by Ash Mills pic.twitter.com/NbfcSwGjVg
— Salisbury Cathedral (@SalisburyCath) September 13, 2018