Skripal suspects in the United Kingdom as 'tourists'

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov

The men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, told the Kremlin-financed network Russia Today that they had traveled from Moscow to the English provincial city of Salisbury in March to visit its ancient cathedral, not to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a former double agent who sold secrets to Britain.

British security services had named the two men as main suspects in the case.

"These are ordinary citizens".

Prime Minister May said last week that the men were agents from Russia's GRU military intelligence and that the Kremlin had "almost certainly" authorized the attempted murder and the use of the nerve agent Novichok on British soil.

"We're afraid of going out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones", Boshirov said.

"They had stayed less than hour in Salisbury, they said, because of bad weather", reports The Moscow Times. Boshirov said, referring to the Nina Ricci vial that British authorities said contained the poison.

British counterterrorism policing sources were understood to "stand by everything" they had said in naming two individuals from Russian Federation as being responsible for the March attack.

They said, however, that they were surprised at the pair's failure to come up with a credible alternative story to counter a British police dossier that pointed to their involvement and to muddy the waters, a known Russian military deception tactic known as maskirovka.

Former spy Sergei, 67, and 34-year-old daughter Yulia both made a full recovery after the poisoning.

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Brit authorities are attempting to find a medic nicknamed Dr Novichok and a fourth man who helped the duo target ex-spy Sergei Skripal, it is claimed. The interview will air later on Thursday, she wrote.

"We examine the market, look if there is something new - some biologically active additives, amino acids, vitamins, microelements", Boshirov said.

Questioned on whether the pair were civilians, Mr Putin replied: 'Of course they are civilians'.

In the TV broadcast, the men were asked why they went to Salisbury on two different days. On the first attempt - the British say this was a reconnaissance mission - the two men stayed only an hour and didn't manage to walk the few hundred yards from the train station to the cathedral because of the awful snow and slush. One of the bystanders later died from the Soviet-era nerve agent after she discovered it in a park disguised in a perfume bottle.

The two men told RT their lives had been "turned upside down" by the allegations.

They confirmed they were the two men shown in CCTV images released by the Metropolitan Police, but denied any criminal activity. He urged to contact the media, and Petrov said he heard Putin's statement on the radio and contacted Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief who conducted the interview.

Britain has formally linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury where Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent.

Many also queried why the pair would stay in a budget hotel in East London if they were travelling to the United Kingdom for two days, and expected to spend both in Salisbury.

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