Russians accused in spy poisoning say they are victims of coincidence

Russians accused in spy poisoning say they are victims of coincidence

RT the state-funded Russian television station is airing an interview Thursday of two Russians that have the same name as the men accused by British authorities of attempting to assassinate a former Russian spy as well as his daughter, said the television station.

Just a day after President Vladimir Putin urged them to come forward, the two Russians the United Kingdom accuses of carrying out a nerve-agent attack on a former spy denied the charges in an interview with RT state television.

Britain has said the two men were Russian military intelligence officers nearly certainly acting on orders from high up in the Russian state.

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

Britain has said the attack received approval "at a senior level of the Russian state", an accusation Moscow has fiercely denied.

The men, named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, told Russian government-backed RT channel that they travelled to the English town of Salisbury purely to see tourist sites such as Stonehenge, which is about 16 kilometres from Salisbury.

Britain identified the Russian suspects last week and released security-camera photos of them in Salisbury on March 3 and 4.

Two Russian men's claims that they were innocent tourists wrongly accused of an attempted assassination in Britain raised eyebrows on Friday - even in Russia's usually patriotic media.

Authorities in the United Kingdom have claimed the two suspects are Russian military intelligence officers.

But what did they say and is it plausible?

After the meeting, Bashirov and Petrov went by train to Salisbury.

The source said: "It's believed they could have met a handler who was working at the embassy and a fourth, the medic, might have had oversight of the whole thing to make sure they didn't risk ruining the operation by getting themselves contaminated".

Petrov and Boshirov said they worked as entrepreneurs in the fitness and supplements industries, but business paper RBK said it had found no business registered under their two names in Russian Federation.

The two men surfaced a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russian Federation had located Petrov and Boshirov, but that there was nothing special or criminal about them. While they may have passed the former agent Sergey Skripal's home, "we don't know where it's located", Boshirov said.

"They are wanted men and we have taken all steps to ensure they are apprehended and brought to justice in the United Kingdom if they ever again step foot outside Russian Federation".

British intelligence found the novichok was stored in a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle, but the two suspects said that would be a ridiculous way for them to transport poison, which they denied having, as it would be "silly for decent lads" to have women's perfume.

"From the very start we planned to go to London and, put bluntly, cut loose and have some fun", he said in the interview which was pre-recorded on Wednesday and broadcast on Thursday. "I did not know anything about them before this situation, before all of this nightmare started". United Kingdom authorities blamed two former Russian agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, for the murder.

Scotland Yard said it still believed the pair were using aliases after the men claimed Petrov and Boshirov were their real names.

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