Russians charged in poisoning say they visited United Kingdom as tourists

Former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi turned his newfound fame into a political career

MISHA JAPARIDZE AP Former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi turned his newfound fame into a political career

The two men named by Britain as suspects in the attempted murder of a former Russian spy said on Thursday they were merely sightseeing in the small English town and have been wrongly accused. "Today - just as we have seen throughout - they have responded with obfuscation and lies", the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Two Russian men accused by the United Kingdom of attempting to murder a former Russian double agent and his daughter have claimed they were in the country as tourists.

"Our friends had been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city", Petrov said in the interview.

When Simonyan seemed to express some surprise at this characterization of an English city that is not well-known overseas, Boshirov answered simply "Yes". "But very odd to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage", Tweeted John Glen, the Member of Parliament for Salisbury. 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.

United Kingdom authorities blamed two former Russian agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, for the murder.

And British journalists have been mocking the story on Twitter, highlighting the improbability of the pair's itinerary and route if they were truly tourists.

The Russian government has denied involvement in the poisoning.

When asked if they were carrying Novichok with them, both Petrov and Boshirov laughed it off.

Asked about the interview, a British government spokeswoman said: "The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service - the GRU - who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country".

Simonyan was mentioned 27 times in a report by U.S. intelligence agencies in January 2017 about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

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Mr Boshirov said: "When your life is turned upside down, you don't know what to do and where to go".

The forensic tent, covering the bench where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found, is repositioned by officials in protective suits in the centre of Salisbury, Britain, March 8, 2018. A woman in a nearby town later died after her partner brought home a discarded counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle containing the poison.

The interviewer, RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, at times seemed more interested in insinuations about the men's personal relationship than their alleged military status. Simonyan said they refused to elaborate on their backgrounds or show their passports on camera.

An except of the full interview was shown on RT News on Thursday morning, and an additional transcript can be seen here.

Simonyan's announcement comes a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russian Federation had located Petrov and Boshirov, but that there was nothing special or criminal about them.

CCTV footage shows Petrov and Boshirov, who traveled on Russian passports and were previously believed to have used aliases, arriving in the United Kingdom on Friday evening on an Aeroflot flight into London's Gatwick airport. They admitted to visiting Salisbury twice, once on March 3 and again on the fourth.

Concerning an article in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph saying that during period of September 2016 - March 2018 the suspects made almost 30 trips to Europe, frequently to Geneva, both said they were studying the European market of bio-supplements and vitamins.

"On Sunday, 4 March, they made the same journey from the hotel, again using the underground from Bow to Waterloo station at approximately 8.05am, before continuing their journey by train to Salisbury". We know who they are, we have found them already.

"They left Salisbury and returned to Waterloo Station, arriving at approximately 4.45pm and boarded the London Underground at approximately 6.30pm to London Heathrow Airport".

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