Novichok suspects: We were in Salisbury as tourists

Salisbury Cathedral

Two men accused of poisoning ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury have denied carrying out the attack and said they were just visiting the town to see the cathedral in an interview with Kremlin-funded news channel RT.

The men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, told the Kremlin-financed network Russia Today that they had traveled from Moscow to the English provincial city of Salisbury in March to visit its ancient cathedral, not to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a former double agent who sold secrets to Britain. They then made a decision to return the next day. "Buy tickets to London right now, it's just an hour's trip away by train", the firm tweeted on Thursday, adding a link to their product.

A European arrest warrant has been issued for the two suspects, but British prosecutors say they will not ask Moscow to extradite Russian citizens because Russia's constitution forbids it.

They said they "got wet, took the nearest train and came back" to London.

Addressing CCTV pictures of both men passing through a gate at Gatwick airport at exactly the same time, Mr Boshirov said: "We always go together through the same corridor and the same custom service officer or a policeman. We'll see in the near future".

"We have repeatedly asked Russian Federation to account for what happened in Salisbury in March". They denied that they carried a bottle of women's perfume where British authorities found traces of Novichok.

"We, of course, looked at what kind of people they are, and we know who they are, we found them", Putin told an audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok.

United Kingdom prosecutors have said they have "sufficient evidence" to charge the pair but did not formally demand their extradition, as Russian Federation does not extradite its citizens.

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The two men said they did not work for GRU, were ordinary businessmen, and the victim of what they called "a fantastical coincidence".

They said that if the real poisoners are found, they would like to hear an apology and would not have come forward if Russian President Vladimir Putin had not suggested it.

May spokeswoman Alison Donnelly told reporters Thursday the United Kingdom remains confident "These men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service who used a devastatingly toxic chemical weapon on the streets of our country".

He tweeted that he was "delighted" the men were able to visit Salisbury's "world-class attractions", but said it was "very unusual to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage".

The Skripal case has been likened by British politicians to the murder of Russian dissident ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in a London hotel in 2006. They recovered after treatment in the hospital.

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

The men are civilians and "we know who they are", Putin told an economic forum in Vladivostok on Wednesday in his first comments on the United Kingdom allegations.

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