'We were tourists in Salisbury', say UK poisoning suspects

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Moscow : Two men accused of a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK claimed on Thursday that they visited the city where the assault took place as tourists and not to poison the pair.

The men, named Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, told the Kremlin-backed RT network that they made a brief trip to Salisbury because "our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town" and mentioned the city's historic cathedral.

They said they returned to London from the city within an hour and had nothing to do with the attack on Skripals, who were poisoned when the men were in Salisbury on March 4.

British prosecutors said last week they had "sufficient evidence" to charge the two Russian nationals in connection with the incident. Prosecutors say the Skripals came into contact with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent.

The UK has described them as agents of Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU.

The two men said they had visited England purely to see tourist sites such as Stonehenge. "We came there on March 2, then went to a railway station to see the timetable," Petrov said, according to RT. "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."

The two men denied having Novichok or any poison with them. They said they were not GRU agents, instead they were in the fitness industry.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "there was nothing criminal about them and that they were civilians".

Skripal and his daughter fell critically ill but recovered after weeks of intensive care in hospital. Their current whereabouts were being kept secret, the BBC reported.

The UK police linked the attack to a separate Novichok poisoning on June 30, when a couple, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, fell ill at a house in Amesbury.

Asked about nerve agent Novichok, the men denied having it with them and also denied carrying the modified Nina Ricci perfume bottle which, UK investigators say, contained the substance.

"Is it silly for decent lads to have women's perfume? 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.

Published : Thursday, September 13, 2018 19:00 [IST]
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