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.
The men, who identified themselves as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, told Russian state television RT that they visited Salisbury in early March because they wanted to see the southern English town’s famous cathedral.
Britain’s government has accused Petrov and Boshirov of trying to kill the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia. The officials also allege that the pair are military intelligence agents who were sent to the UK to poison the Skripals with the nerve agent Novichok.
The men denied the allegations and said they visited Salisbury on March 3 for tourism but stayed for 30 minutes only.
“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum. But we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere. We got wet, took the train and came back [to London],” the pair told RT before adding that they returned to Salisbury the following day “to see the Old Sarum and the cathedral”.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the two men as “civilians”.
“We, of course, checked who these people are,” said Putin. “There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you. We’ll see in the near future.”
A spokesperson for the UK government said the two men who appeared on RT were the same men suspected of poisoning the Skripals.