Skripal poisoning suspects speak on Russian state TV
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the two men identified by the British Government as suspects in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March, have spoken to Russian broadcaster RT, claiming they travelled to the UK simply as tourists.
In the interview with RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, the pair confirmed that they are the men in the images released by UK authorities last week and said they travelled to Salisbury — the location of the attack on the Skripals — to see the city’s famed cathedral as well as other popular sights including Old Sarum.
They planned “to spend some time in London and then…visit Salisbury” before flying back to Russia the same day, Mr Petrov said.
However, “heavy snow” caused them to extend their stay for an extra two days.
Ms Simonyan asked what they did for those three days (transcript):
SIMONYAN: OK, three. What did you do for those three days?
PETROV: We arrived on March 2. We went to the train station to check the schedule, to see where we could go.
BOSHIROV: The initial plan was to go there for a day. Just take a look and return the same day.
PETROV: To Salisbury, that is. One day in Salisbury is enough. There’s not much you can do there.
BOSHIROV: It’s a regular city. A regular tourist city.
SIMONYAN: OK, I get that. That was your plan. But what did you actually do? You arrived. There was heavy snowfall. No trains, nothing. So, what did you do?
PETROV: No, we arrived in Salisbury on March 3. We wanted to walk around the city but since the whole city was covered with snow, we spent only 30 minutes there. We were all wet.
BOSHIROV: There are no pictures. The media, television – nobody talks about the fact that the transport system was paralyzed that day. It was impossible to get anywhere because of the snow. We were drenched up to our knees.
SIMONYAN: All right. You went for a walk for 30 minutes, you got wet. What next?
PETROV: We travelled there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, and the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But it didn’t work out because of the slush. The whole city was covered with slush. We got wet, so we went back to the train station and took the first train to go back. We spent about 40 minutes in a coffee shop at the train station.
BOSHIROV: Drinking coffee. A hot drink because we were drenched.
PETROV: Maybe a little over an hour. That’s because of large intervals between trains. I think this was because of the snowfall. We went back to London and continued with our journey.
BOSHIROV: We walked around London…
SIMONYAN: So, you only spent an hour in Salisbury?
PETROV: On March 3? Yes. That’s because it was impossible to get anywhere.
SIMONYAN: What about the next day?
PETROV: On March 4, we went back there, because the snow melted in London, it was warm.
BOSHIROV: It was sunny.
PETROV: And we thought – we really wanted to see Old Sarum and the cathedral. So we decided to give it another try on March 4.
SIMONYAN: Another try to do what?
PETROV: To go sightseeing.
BOSHIROV: To see this famous cathedral. To visit Old Sarum.
SIMONYAN: So, did you see it?
BOSHIROV: Yes, we did.
PETROV: On March 4, we did. But again, by lunchtime, there was heavy sleet.
BOSHIROV: For some reason, nobody talks about this.
PETROV: So we left early.
The two men said they took photographs of the sights they saw including the cathedral.
When asked if they went anywhere near the Skripal’s home, they said they had no idea where it was.
SIMONYAN: So, while you were in Salisbury, did you go anywhere near the Skripal’s home?
PETROV: Maybe. We don’t know.
BOSHIROV: What about you? Do you know where their house is?
SIMONYAN: I don’t. Do you?
BOSHIROV: We don’t either.
PETROV: I wish somebody told us where it was.
BOSHIROV: Maybe we passed it, or maybe we didn’t. I’d never heard about them before this nightmare started. I’d never heard this name before. I didn’t know anything about them.
Mr Petrov and Mr Boshirov dismissed the allegation that they had at any point of their trip possessed a bottle of Nina Ricci perfume, which is understood to have contained the Novichok series nerve agent used in the Skripal attack and later killed British woman Dawn Sturgess in July.
“Don’t you think that it’s kind of stupid for two straight men to be carrying perfume for ladies?” Mr Boshirov countered.
“When you go through customs, they check all your belongings. So, if we had anything suspicious, they would definitely have questions. Why would a man have women’s perfume in his bag?”
The men said they had contacted Ms Simonyan “to ask for protection”, and that they had contemplated going to the police, the UK embassy, and Russia’s Federal Security Service.
“You know, when your life is turned upside down, you don’t really understand what to do and where to go,” Mr Boshirov said. “And many say, why don’t they go to the UK embassy and explain everything?”
He added: “We can’t go out on the street because we are scared. We’re afraid. We fear for our lives. And for the lives of our families and friends.”
SIMONYAN: So, you fear that the UK secret service will kill you or what?
BOSHIROV: We just don’t know.
PETROV: Simply read what even the Russian media is writing. They are offering a reward.
The men said they run a medium-sized business which sells “supplements to athletes” and that they often travel to Europe to identify new products which can be introduced to the Russian fitness market.
The 25-minute interview concluded with the pair saying all they wanted was for the issue to be resolved and for them to have peace.
PETROV: Well, we hope that the situation can be resolved.
BOSHIROV: Yes, we want it to be resolved, for the British side to apologise for all this mess, for the real culprits in the Skripal case to be found, and for our lives to change for the better.
PETROV: The whole situation is some kind of extraordinary coincidence – that’s all. What are we guilty of?
BOSHIROV: We simply would like to be left in peace right now, at least for a little while. We want everybody to calm down.
PETROV: At least our media, your colleagues.
SIMONYAN: ‘Our’ meaning Russian?
BOSHIROV: We want to live peacefully for a while.
PETROV: We kind of realise what will happen after this interview.
BOSHIROV: Well, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
PETROV: In any case, we will have to…
SIMONYAN: You’ll become talk show stars!
PETROV: That’s not what we want. One just wants to hide and sit it all out.
BOSHIROV: So that they get off our backs.
PETROV: We certainly don’t want publicity of that sort.
BOSHIROV: We simply wish to be left alone.
PETROV: We’re sick and tired of all this.
PETROV: If it is possible, please, everybody leave us alone. That’s all. You’re our way of getting this word out to everybody, including your fellow journalists. Even if somebody recognises our faces (since we can’t simply stay at home, we have to go out in public), dear friends, please, don’t grab your phones… I don’t know what to say… We simply want some peace. I understand that we won’t return to normal life as soon as we would like to…
BOSHIROV: But we at least don’t want to be pestered right now.
The British response
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson called the interview “lies and blatant fabrications” that “are an insult to the public’s intelligence”.
“More importantly, they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack. Sadly, it is what we have come to expect.”
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt tweeted:
“The last time Russian military claimed to be on holiday was when they invaded Ukraine in 2014. Time to stop the fake TV shows – the world has found Russia out on this.”
What happened when
- At around 15:00 GMT on Friday 2 March, the two men arrived at Gatwick Airport
- Police say they travelled to London Victoria at 17:40 GMT, and were at Waterloo Station between 18:00 and 19:00 GMT before travelling to their London hotel
- At 11:45 GMT on Saturday 3 March, they took a train from Waterloo Station to Salisbury
- CCTV footage shows the men in Salisbury around 14:25 GMT
- The men say they spent less than an hour in Salisbury, deciding against seeing Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral because of “muddy slush everywhere”
- CCTV footage shows the men taking a train back to London at 16:11 GMT
- On Sunday 4 March, CCTV cameras filmed the men arriving at Salisbury train station at 11:48 GMT
- Police say they were then seen on CCTV near the home of Sergei Skripal at 11:58 GMT
- The men say they then visited Salisbury Cathedral
- CCTV footage shows the men leaving Salisbury station at 13:50 GMT
- At 19:28 GMT, the men were at Heathrow Airport for an Aeroflot flight to Moscow
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