Nerve agent suspects claim they visited Salisbury as tourists

The prime suspects in the Salisbury nerve agent attack have claimed they visited Salisbury as tourists.

Russian Nationals Ruslan Boshirov (left)  have appeared in an interview on the Russian state TV channel RT. Picture: Russia Today
Russian Nationals Ruslan Boshirov (left) have appeared in an interview on the Russian state TV channel RT. Picture: Russia Today

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told Russian state-funded news channel RT they visited the city in Wiltshire to see Stonehenge and Old Sarum.

The pair claimed they have been left fearing for their lives after Britain pointed to their involvement and said they were officers in Russian military intelligence service the GRU.

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RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said they had called her mobile because they wanted to tell their story.

In a translation from Russian, the broadcaster quoted Petrov as saying: “Well, we came there on March 2, then went to a railway station to see the timetable. 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).”

In the men’s first interview since they were named publicly they denied carrying women’s perfume.

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UK authorities believe the pair smeared the highly toxic chemical Novichok on a door handle at the Wiltshire home of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal, leaving Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia critically ill.

Boshirov acknowledged they may have been near Mr Skripal’s house but they did not know where it was.

President Vladimir Putin said the men had been discounted as members of his security network.

In an address to the Easter Economic Forum in Vladivostok, he said: “Of course, we looked who these people are. We know who they are, we have found them already.

“There is nothing special and nothing criminal about it, I’m telling you.”

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

Boshirov said his life had been turned “upside down”, according to RT.

He said: “We’re afraid of going out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones.”

Detectives believe it is likely the two suspects, thought to be aged around 40, travelled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov are not their real names.

Officers 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.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.

A police officer who visited the home of the Skripals shortly after the attack, Nick Bailey, was also left critically ill from exposure to the substance.