Novichok suspects appear on Russia Today: 'We visited Salisbury as tourists'

Novichok suspects appear on Russia Today: 'We visited Salisbury as tourists'

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The two Russian men suspected of carrying out the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal have given their first interview to Russian state-funded news outlet Russia Today.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov contacted the outlet’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, after Vladimir Putin stated on Wednesday that there was “nothing criminal” about the men, and urged them to reach out to the media.

Their names were thought to be pseudonyms, but the two men claimed that they were their real names.

Watch: Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov appear on Russia Today

In the interview, the men admit to having visited Salisbury, but said they were there as tourists to look at the cathedral.

They claimed a friend had recommended the city to them, and quoted a series of facts about the cathedral - including the height of its spire - that can be found on Wikipedia. 

BBC News anchor Simon McCoy described the pair as "very keen on steeples".

They also confirm that the CCTV images released by police do indeed show them.

“You called me on my cell phone and told me you were Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov,” said Simonyan. “Who are you?”

“We are those shown to you in the pictures,” they responded.

When Simonyan commented they look very nervous, Petrov replied: “What would you look like?”

“When your life is turned upside down in a moment. Just one day changed our lives,” Boshirov added.

They did not specify how they came to be in possession of Simonyan's mobile phone number. 


'Would straight men have women's perfume?'

According to the straplines on the video, the men said they do not work for Russian intelligence service the GRU but are in the fitness industry.

“Well, we came there [to Salisbury] on March 2, then went to a railway station to see the timetable,” Petrov said.

“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.

“Of course, we went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere. The town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back [to London].”

Boshirov added: “Maybe we did [approach] Skripal’s house, but we don’t know where is it located.”

Simonyan asked whether the men were carrying novichok in a perfume bottle in their luggage, as they have been accused of.

They denied having the poison with them.

“Don't you think it's stupid for two straight men to have perfume for ladies? The customs are checking everything, they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it,” Boshirov said.

Simonyan thinly-veiled inferences that the men might be gay did not go unnoticed, and she tweeted after the interview: "Guys, I don't know if they're gay".