Skripal Poisoning Suspects Say They Were in Salisbury Sightseeing, Complain About Snow, Ask for Apology

Two Russian men identifying themselves as the suspects in the poisoning of an ex-Soviet agent in the English countryside have confirmed they paid a fleeting visit to the U.K., but said it was to only to take in the sights of Salisbury.

Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov were recently identified by British police as the suspects behind the near-lethal attack on ex-Soviet double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's initial response was to doubt the veracity of the footage showing the two men arrive in the country, travel near the scene of the crime and leave quickly after.

In their first interview since the revelations, the two suspects took a different approach, confirming it was them in the photos and they did travel from Russia to the somewhat obscure destination of Salisbury. The explanation? Sightseeing.

In this handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police, Salisbury Novichok poisoning suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are shown on CCTV on Fisherton Road, Salisbury at 13:05hrs on 04 March 2018, released on September 05, 2018 in London, England. Two Russian nationals using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov have been named as suspects in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia March, 2018. Metropolitan Police/Getty Images

"Friends have suggesting that we pay a visit to this beautiful town," the man who identified himself as Alexander Petrov told Russia's state-run network RT. "Salisbury? A wonderful town?" Margarita Simonyan, the network's editor-in-chief asked. "Yes," Petrov answered tersely.

"It is a tourist town," Boshirov interjected. "There's a famous cathedral there... It is famous not just in Europe, but in the whole world. It's famous for its 123-metre spire, it's famous for its clock, the first one [of its kind] ever created in the world, which is still working."

British police have determined the two men are likely agents of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency and the names given are only aliases. Near the end of the interview, the two men denied working for GRU. They did not want to shed much personal information on how they know each other, but explained they had a business in fitness nutrition supplements.

The men said they were visiting the country as tourists for three days prior to Skripal's poisoning, but said they did not get around to visit tourist attractions such as Stonehenge because of a snowstorm and the resultant "transport collapse." The two still managed to visit Salisbury twice, on two consecutive days. British authorities say they came to stake out the town on the first day, and returned to carry out the attack on the second. The man identifying as Petrov denied the allegations.

"We arrived in Salisbury on the third (of March) and tried to walk through the town, but we lasted for only half an hour because it was covered in snow," Petrov said, noting that the men found it too difficult to go to the cathedral or the Old Sarum archeological site outside the town. "We decided to finish this business on the fourth (of March)."

"What business is this?" Simonyan asked. "Well, to visit them," Petrov answered, saying there should be footage of the two men there.

"Did you photograph yourself at the cathedral?" Simonyan asked.

"Of course," Boshirov answered. "We sat in the park, we sat and drank coffee, we went to a cafe and drank coffee, we took walks. We went walking, marvelling at this English gothic [architecture.]"

"Show us these photos and we will show them," Simonyan said. Petrov continued to talk over her and did not address the request.

Asked if they visited the Skripal residence, where British police say the two smeared the door handle with a nerve agent that nearly killed Skripal and his daughter, the two men said they may have passed by it, but if they did it was without knowing it.

The dispenser of Nina Ricci perfume that contained the Novichok nerve agent, which two more Salisbury locals found and were themselves poisoned, also came up during the interview. Boshirov refuted the idea it came from them, adding that "normal men" would not carry women's perfume when travelling together and it would have aroused the suspicion of Russian customs.

The two men apparently came forward of their own volition, reaching out to Simonyan out of the blue, after Russian President Vladimir Putin urged them to this week.

The Kremlin has denied the two men are its agents, calling them "civilians."