Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Skripal poisoning: Suspects say they were in Salisbury to see cathedral

Skripal poisoning: Suspects say they were in Salisbury to see cathedral

"There's the famous Salisbury cathedral, famous not just in Europe, but in the whole world. Its famous Salisbury cathedral, famous for its 123m spire...the clock... the oldest of its kind that is still working".

Simonyan said the two men contacted her directly and that she had not looked for them personally.

Then, days later, President Vladimir Putin vouched for them as just ordinary guys and anything but would-be hit men.

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.

In their RT television interview, the two men, who gave their names as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, said they had visited Salisbury as tourists and had nothing to do with the attack on the Skripals.

The Russian government has denied involvement in the poisoning.

The full unedited interview still hasn't been published online but the RT anchors addressed the obvious question of why these two men would approach RT, a cable network whose audience is primarily people outside of Russian Federation.

The two Russian men, who say they are both about 40, were identified last week as suspects by the British government.

One senior security source said of the pair that the United Kingdom government "is clear they are GRU" (Russian foreign intelligence), and used a "devastatingly toxic" weapon on Britain's streets. It accused them of being agents of Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU. They also said they wanted to see the world-famous Stone Age monument Stonehenge, but decided against it due to the bad weather.

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

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American counterintelligence officials have reviewed protocols to protect those informants and search for any liabilities, including social media presences or information shared with family members that would make it easier for Russian agents to find the defectors, the Times reported.

Skripal, his daughter, and a police officer were left gravely ill by exposure to Novichok in March. Police believe the perfume bottle had been specially adapted to carry the poison.

A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry rejected the report, writing in a post that she believed Bellingcat had ties to western intelligence, noting the group's access to a Russian database that is not publicly available.

Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov made their first public appearance in an interview with the Kremlin-funded RT channel Thursday.

They acknowledged they went to Salisbury twice.

The two men confirmed that they were the men pictured travelling to and from Salisbury in images published by Britain's Metropolitan Police.

The two men offered a reason for their visit: "They have a famous cathedral there, Salisbury Cathedral".

CCTV footage released by police shows the pair arriving in the city around 2.25pm and leaving an hour and 45 minutes later.

"The only thing I can agree with them on is that Salisbury is a fantastic place, and I will be doing all I can with business leaders to promote tourism next year and beyond". "We'll see in the near future".

So while they were seen close to the Skripals' house they would also have had enough time to see the cathedral.

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