BREAKING NEWS : Father and son identified in deadly Leith Street double shooting Full Story
BREAKING NEWS : Allen County coroner identifies man found shot on Lewis Street Full Story
BREAKING NEWS : Infant announced as second death in Chancery Place house fire Full Story

Novichok suspects: We were just tourists

Two Russians accused of a nerve agent attack in the UK told the Kremlin-backed RT network they made a brief trip to Salisbury as tourists, claiming to have had nothing to do with the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were poisoned when the pair were in Salisbury in March 2018.

Posted: Sep 14, 2018 6:40 AM
Updated: Sep 14, 2018 6:57 AM

Two Russians accused of a nerve agent attack in the UK have admitted they visited the city where the assault took place, but say the purpose of their brief trip was to visit its historic cathedral and not to poison a former double agent who happened to live there.

The men, who identified themselves as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, told the Kremlin-backed RT network that the purpose of their 6,000-mile, three-day trip from Moscow was to visit the "wonderful town," its fine cathedral with its 123-meter spire and famous clock, the "first of its kind anywhere in the world."

Far from being on a mission to kill Sergei Skripal, a former KGB agent who had ended up working for British intelligence, their intention was to visit historic sites such as the ancient stone circle at Stonehenge and the prehistoric settlement site of Old Sarum. Friends had been exhorting them for some time to make the trip, they said.

The peculiar interview with RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, in which the men appeared nervous and uncomfortable, came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the men should come forward and tell their story.

British authorities say Petrov and Boshirov are aliases, and them men are agents of the Russian security service, the GRU. But in the RT interview, the men insisted those were their real names, and that they were businessmen in the fitness industry, selling supplements and advising on nutrition.

They claimed to have had nothing to do with the attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were found slumped on a bench in the center of Salisbury on March 4 as the Russians were on a train back to London after their second visit to the city in two days. They might have been spotted on the same street as the Skripals' house, they said, but they had no idea the former spy lived there.

Their extraordinary account appears to indicate that Russia does not plan to deny the time-stamped CCTV footage produced by Britain that shows the pair at various locations between March 2-4, but to suggest it was misinterpreted and that there is an innocent explanation.

The UK government dismissed the pair's claims. "The lies and blatant fabrications in this interview given to a Russian state-sponsored TV station are an insult to the public's intelligence. More importantly they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack," Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman told reporters.

"Sadly, it is what we have come to expect. The police have set out very clearly the evidence against these two men. They are wanted men and we have taken all steps to ensure they are apprehended and brought to justice in the UK if they ever again step foot outside Russia."

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ridiculed the Russians' claims, saying on Twitter: "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."

Britain is not appealing to Russia for the extradition of the two men as Russian does not extradite its own nationals. However, prosecutors have obtained a European Arrest Warrant and police have asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants too.

British prosecutors said last week they had "sufficient evidence" to charge the two Russian nationals with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder in connection with the attack on March 4. Prosecutors say the Skripals came into contact with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Salisbury attack.

We came to see Stonehenge

London's Metropolitan Police last week gave a detailed account of the pair's movements during their trip to the UK, accompanied by CCTV stills that would have been difficult for the Russians to dispute.

But rather than being ruthless members of Russia's spy service, as Britain alleged, they were simply a pair of foreign tourists on a weekend trip away from Moscow.

Yes, they were the same two men shown on CCTV at London's Gatwick Airport at about 3 p.m. on Friday March 2, fresh from an Aeroflot flight from Moscow. But rather than being on a daring spy mission, they were merely friends on one of many trips they made to Europe together.

But they did not offer an explanation as to why, instead of traveling west out of London towards Salisbury, the pair headed in the opposite direction. Eschewing the wide range of tourist accommodations in Salisbury, they favored a basic hotel in the east end of London.

On Saturday March 3, UK police say, the men caught a train to Salisbury, arriving at about 2:25 p.m. They left the city less than two hours later to return to London. Police believe the journey was a reconnaissance trip.

Petrov did not dispute the timing. "We came there on March 2, then went to a railway station to see the timetable," Petrov said, according to RT's translation of the interview.

The pair returned the next day to complete their tour, they said, but were apparently thwarted by the inclement weather. "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)."

A tweet by Stonehenge on March 3 shows the historic site was indeed closed on March 3 because of snow. But CCTV photographs of the men in Salisbury does not support the men's claims that the city was awash with slush.

The following day, they traveled again by train to Salisbury, arriving about 11:45 a.m. Just before midday, CCTV footage showed them in the vicinity of Sergei Skripal's home, where they are believed to have applied Novichok to the front door. Police say the footage was captured "moments before the attack."

The two men said they had indeed returned to Salisbury on Sunday, but it was to see the cathedral and Old Sarum because the weather had improved. Police say the men spent less than two hours there.

"We spent no more than an hour in Salisbury, mainly because of the lags between trains," Boshirov told RT. "Maybe we did [approach] Skripal's house, but we don't know where it is located."

At 1:05 p.m. they were caught on CCTV on Fisherton Street in Salisbury, heading back toward the train station. They boarded a train back to London at 1:50 p.m. The pair passed through passport control at London Heathrow Airport at about 7:30 p.m. before boarding a flight back to Moscow.

The weather wasn't much better there: Photographs from Moscow on March 4 show heavy snow and extensive slush on the city's streets.

Salisbury's Member of Parliament, John Glen, dismissed the statements made by Petrov and Boshirov, saying they "are not credible and don't match the widely accepted intelligence we have on these individuals."

Glen, a Conservative lawmaker, also tweeted that he was "delighted that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov [sic] were able to see the world-class attractions that #Salisbury has to offer. But very strange to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage."

'We didn't have perfume'

Speaking to RT, the two men denied having Novichok or any poison with them.

Asked by Simonyan whether they had the perfume bottle that had been shown as evidence by UK authorities, Boshirov said: "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."

UK investigators have formally linked the attack on the Skripals to the June 30 poisoning of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, a couple living in Amesbury, near Salisbury. Sturgess died on July 8 after applying a substance to her wrists from a perfume bottle found by Rowley.

Police say it was a counterfeit bottle with a nozzle that had been specially adapted. They believe Sturgess and Rowley, who was taken seriously ill but survived, "became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of" by the suspects in the Skripal poisoning.

The two men told RT they were distressed about being named by the UK as Russian intelligence agents alleged to have been involved in the poisoning.

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

The RT interview came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had identified the pair and found no evidence of criminal activities.

"We, of course, looked at what kind of people they are, and we know who they are, we found them," Putin told an audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok. "There is nothing unusual or criminal there, I assure you."

Putin appeared to suggest they should tell their story publicly. "Let them come out somewhere, to you in the media," he said, describing the men as "civilians."

Prime Minister May told the UK Parliament last week that Britain believes the two suspects to be GRU officers.

Russia has been accused by the UK of conducting a disinformation campaign over the attack on the Skripals. Officials from the UK Foreign Office say they have counted 37 different Russian narratives regarding the poisonings in Salisbury.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117450

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21403766
Lake10618323
Elkhart6667111
St. Joseph6576110
Allen6292203
Hamilton4909109
Vanderburgh371931
Hendricks2747123
Monroe262736
Tippecanoe252313
Johnson2338124
Clark223657
Porter217647
Delaware198562
Cass19549
Vigo184327
Madison168975
LaPorte147441
Floyd138963
Warrick134440
Howard131863
Kosciusko124817
Bartholomew117957
Marshall101224
Dubois99119
Boone98646
Grant93334
Hancock93243
Noble92532
Henry80926
Jackson7689
Wayne76814
Morgan72938
Daviess67728
Shelby67729
Dearborn66528
LaGrange63911
Clinton60914
Harrison58724
Putnam58112
Gibson5305
Knox5259
Lawrence51529
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48711
White48614
Decatur45839
Miami4383
Greene42735
Fayette42313
Jasper3992
Steuben3877
Scott38111
Posey3400
Sullivan33812
Jennings31612
Franklin31125
Ripley3038
Clay3025
Orange28824
Whitley2796
Carroll27713
Adams2743
Wabash2718
Washington2691
Starke2677
Wells2654
Spencer2593
Jefferson2483
Huntington2453
Fulton2412
Tipton22822
Perry22113
Randolph2207
Jay1880
Newton17311
Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1621
Rush1574
Vermillion1300
Fountain1282
Blackford1203
Pulaski1131
Crawford1080
Brown1043
Parke1032
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren401
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 150809

Reported Deaths: 4741
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26961607
Cuyahoga17490656
Hamilton13191315
Montgomery7883163
Lucas7322364
Butler6040111
Summit5332252
Marion310347
Warren309649
Mahoning3073281
Stark2883175
Pickaway267844
Lorain231786
Delaware228120
Fairfield211853
Licking193663
Columbiana193280
Wood190272
Trumbull1896132
Clark181040
Clermont173123
Lake163851
Medina147539
Greene146533
Miami145451
Allen144169
Portage115566
Mercer113218
Erie94647
Tuscarawas93620
Wayne93668
Richland90319
Ross89024
Madison83012
Darke80442
Geauga72349
Belmont72227
Hancock71210
Athens7072
Ashtabula65948
Lawrence65922
Shelby64910
Auglaize6089
Putnam60823
Sandusky57720
Huron5517
Union5452
Scioto5117
Seneca48514
Ottawa46930
Preble44015
Muskingum4213
Holmes3909
Jefferson3364
Defiance32511
Henry31814
Logan3123
Champaign3083
Clinton29913
Perry2989
Brown2902
Knox28615
Jackson2636
Morrow2612
Washington26123
Hardin25613
Fulton2461
Crawford2446
Ashland2424
Coshocton23411
Fayette2326
Highland2303
Williams2133
Wyandot21312
Pike2000
Gallia19113
Meigs17610
Guernsey1708
Hocking1669
Carroll1527
Adams1354
Van Wert1233
Monroe11018
Paulding1100
Harrison643
Morgan490
Vinton473
Noble330
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 55°
Angola
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 54°
Huntington
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 55°
Decatur
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 61°
Van Wert
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 61°
Rain moves in for Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events