The Russian assassins accused by Britain of being sent to poison the Skripals with novichok broke their silence today and said they were just tourists in Salisbury admiring its cathedral after failing to get to Stonehenge.
The men, who used the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov to travel to the UK allegedly smuggling nerve agent in a James Bond-inspired perfume bottle, have spoken to state-funded TV station RT.
Explaining why they have come forward Boshirov said: ‘When your life is turned upside down, you don’t know what to do and where to go. We’re afraid of going out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones’.
The men today described themselves as ‘decent lads’ working in the sports nutrition business and said they were in Wiltshire to visit Stonehenge but couldn’t get there because of bad weather.
Instead they went to the ‘extraordinary town’ of Salisbury to see its cathedral and ‘famous spire’ after a recommendation from a friend – not to smear nerve agent on Sergei Skripal’s front door.
But Boshirov also admitted they may have stumbled upon the former spy’s suburban home – half an hour’s walk from the station and away from the city centre – but only by accident.
He said: ‘Maybe we did [approach] Skripal’s house, but we don’t know where it was located’.
The two Skripal suspects Ruslan Boshirov (left) and Alexander Petrov (right) have spoken out for the first time and say they were just tourists enjoying the delights of Salibury
Alexander Petrov (left) and Ruslan Boshirov (right) have been accused by British police of being two Russian spies (pictured in their passport photos)
Alexander Petrov, right in CCTV footage, and Ruslan Boshirov, left, were named by British authorities as the suspects but insisted they are victims of a smear and were merely on holiday
Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with Novichok in Salisbury after it was smeared on his front door
Skripal assassins claim they are ‘decent lads’ who were on a day trip to admire Salisbury
Europe’s most wanted men spoke out for the first time today and insisted they are the victims of a smear campaign.
Here is a transcript from RT’s website, which will show the interview in full later.
RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said: ‘You called me on my cellphone and told me you were Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov. You really look like the pictures shown to us by the UK. Who are you?’
Petrov replied: ‘We are those who were shown to you in the pictures – Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov.’
Simonyan said: ‘Are those your real names?’
Boshirov replied: ‘Yes they are our real names.’
Simonyan said: ‘Even now when you’re talking about it, to tell the truth you look very nervous.’
Petrov said: ‘What would you look like?’
Boshirov said: ‘When your life is turned upside down in a moment. In just one day it changed our lives.’
Simonyan asked: ‘On the CCTV footage from London you were wearing the now famous coats and sneakers in Salisbury. Are those people you?’
They both replied: ‘Yes that’s us.’
Simonyan asked: ‘What were you doing there?’
Petrov said: ‘Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town.’
Simonyan asked: ‘Salisbury? A wonderful town?’
Both replied: ‘Yes.’
Boshirov said: ‘There’s the famous Salisbury Cathedral, famous not only in Europe but in the whole world. It’s famous for its 123-metre spire, it’s famous for its clock, the one of the first-ever created in the world that is still working.’
Boshirov denied ever hearing the name Skripal, saying : “I didn’t know, I haven’t heard – until this situation, until this nightmare with us started, I haven’t heard this last name (Skripal), I knew nothing about them
“We came here to you for protection. But it becomes some sort of interrogation – we are starting to go deep. We are asking for your protection.”
RT editor Margarita Simonyan, who interviewed them last night, asked the two men whether they had Novichok or any poison with them, the emphatically said no.
Boshirov said: ‘Is it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume? The customs are checking everything, they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it’.
Britain insists the men were sent by the Russia state, who handed them ‘perfect’ aliases and ID documents used to secure UK visa.
Traces of novichok were also found in their budget hotel room in east London, where they stayed during their short trip to the UK in March.
But the men say that they are the victims of a smear campaign and were holidaymakers.
Petrov, who only a week ago said he knew nothing about Salisbury and had been in Siberia, told RT: ‘We arrived in Salisbury on March 3 and tried to walk through the town, but we lasted for only half an hour because it was covered in snow’.
‘Of course, we went there to see Stonehenge but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back [to London]’.
Boshirov added: We spent no more than an hour in Salisbury, mainly because of the lags between trains’.
Detectives believe the two suspects, thought to be aged around 40, travelled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov are not their real names.
Officers formally linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury where Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent.
Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.
A police officer who visited the home of the Skripals shortly after the attack, Nick Bailey, was also left critically ill from exposure to the substance.
Yesterday the Russian President claimed they were civilians not GRU military spies – despite Britain’s evidence the men were sent by the Russian state to kill former spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia.
Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Mr Putin said: ‘We have checked what kind of people they are. We know who they are, we have found them. There is nothing criminal in it’.
Vladimir Putin, pictured at an economic forum in Russia yesterday, claims his country’s authorities have found the men suspected of the Novichok attack and say their trip to Britain was not criminal
Left, an alleged picture of poisoning suspect Ruslan Boshirov and, right, an alleged pictured of suspect Alexander Petrov
RT editor Margarita Simonyan tweeted today that she spent the evening with the suspects and suggested that they will deny any part in the plot
The men at the centre of the scandal have finally admitted they were in Salisbury – days after denying it.
One man – who appears to work for a drugs company in Tomsk, Siberia, making a vaccine against smallpox – snubbed him by refusing to speak before next week.
‘No comment for the moment. Maybe later. Next week, I think,’ a man identified as Alexander Petrov was reported to have told State television channel Rossiya-24.
Last week the same man had told Russian TV: ‘I don’t know a thing about it. And I have nothing to do with the Skripal story.’
Fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle used by Salisbury assassins was ‘made by top scientists from the ‘Q-ski’ branch of Russia’s military intelligence
Police have released images of the perfume bottle they say was adapted to help the two Russian suspects carry out their lethal attack
The Russians spent a fortune on the tiny James Bond-inspired perfume bottle used to carry novichok including developing new technology to ensure it wasn’t a suicide mission for their agents, experts revealed today.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, one of Britain’s top chemical weapons experts, says the fake sample vial of Nina Ricci Premier Jour could only have been produced by Putin’s top scientists in their most sophisticated and top secret lab.
He told MailOnline: ‘They needed to ensure that the men carrying out the attack did not kill themselves while doing it. It would be deeply embarrassing if their agents died on foreign soil’.
The two assassins, using the aliases Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, carried the bottle of Novichok into the UK unhindered before spraying it on Sergei Skripal’s front door in suburban Salisbury in March.
Experts believe the botched hit came after up to three months of development and testing probably sanctioned at the highest levels of the Russian state.
The lab, branded ‘Q-ski’ after the research and development division of the British Secret Service in James Bond, made the bottle and ‘one-way’ applicator nozzle so it was impossible for novichok to leak out in transit.
It was also made of special toughened glass, plastic or ceramic sure not to smash, crack or degrade while carrying one of the world deadliest weapons.
He claimed he was the victim of mistaken identity, and denied possessing a foreign passport.
‘This is a complete coincidence,’ he said. ‘Let alone London, I can’t even manage to get to the Altai Mountains (in southern Siberia).’
The other suspect, Ruslan Boshirov, also named by anti-terror police in London, has not yet spoken.
Viktoria Skripal, niece of poisoned ex-double agent Sergei Skripal, said yesterday: ‘According to my information, real Alexander Petrov was not in the UK at that time. These are ordinary people. Petrov’s work is even not related to the government.’
She said Petrov and Boshirov ‘are in complete bewilderment and shock over what’s happening.
‘I knew it from the first day that this whole story about involvement of Petrov and Boshirov is fake.’
This claim appeared to contradict Putin who said the Russian government had ‘found’ the pair identified by Britain.
MailOnline revealed that the suspects casually window-shopped in Salisbury just minutes after they tried to murder former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
The exclusive first footage seen of the killers shows the two men looking relaxed and good-humoured as they sauntered down the street towards Salisbury station to make their getaway.
The suspects were handed genuine Russian passports and then secured visas from the British embassy in Moscow under bogus aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov to avoid detection during their murder mission in March.
Their passports were repeatedly used on trips from Moscow to Amsterdam, Geneva, Milan and Paris between September 2016 and March 2018 with British investigators now scrambling to work out exactly what the Russian spies were doing in Europe.
Petrov’s passport was also used in London on February 28 2017 – a year before their botched mission to kill former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent smeared on his front door in suburban Salisbury.
The travel details have been published by Fontanka, an independent Russian media outlet with a strong track record of investigative reporting into Putin’s regime.
Hamish de Bretton Gordon, one of Britain’s top chemical weapons experts, told MailOnline that UK security sources have briefed him that the men, who were GRU military agents, had watertight backstories that helped them avoid being stopped at the UK border.
He said: ‘The passports were perfect in every detail including all the electrics and circuitry. It fooled the British border electronic security which is considered to be among the best around. We also gave them visas they must have had a plausible back story’.
Mr de Bretton Gordon suggested that Russia may even have hacked the UK’s border security system to make doubly sure they were not flagged as ‘people of interest’ and interviewed. The Home Office today denied this.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said Vladimir Putin is ‘ultimately responsible’ for the novichok attack because of his tight grip on the GRU spy network which sent two ‘calamitous’ state assassins on a ‘pathetic’ mission to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
He said: ‘The state had clearly decided to sit behind this action and lend its logistics. The men were given genuine passports, provided with aliases that survived a certain level of test and visas used by many law-abiding Russians to visit Britain for holidays or business.
‘The Russian state, which we know had invented novichok, must have made sure it was put in a package that was there to disguise it. If you let them into your system, airside in Russia, it becomes a harder thing to detect’.
Mr Wallace said he is ‘100 per cent sure’ the men named carried out the attack and claimed that Vladimir Putin has ultimate responsibility for the actions of his spies – but added: ‘This was more Johnny English than James Bond’.
He said: ‘Ultimately he does, insofar as he is president of the Russian Federation and it is his government that controls, funds and directs the military intelligence – that’s the GRU – via his minister of defence. I don’t think that anyone can ever say that Mr Putin isn’t in control of his state’.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister, pictured today, reiterated claims by British authorities that the men were Russian intelligence agents and accused the Kremlin of ‘lies’
They were accused of the Novichok attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, right, and his daughter Yulia, left
Novichok ‘assassins’ movements revealed: Spies flew into Britain from Russia before getting train to Salisbury
Scotland Yard today released detailed information about the movements of the prime suspects in the novichok nerve agent attack.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov arrived in the UK on a Friday afternoon in March and checked into a budget hotel in east London.
On the Saturday, the day before the attack, they carried out a reconnaissance trip to Salisbury before returning to London.
On the Sunday, they took another train to Salisbury and are thought to have smeared the novichok on Mr Skripal’s front door. That afternoon they returned to London and flew from Heathrow hours after the Skripals were found collapsed in a park.
Friday, 2 March: 3pm: The suspects arrive at Gatwick airport, having flown from Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2588.
CCTV images from 3pm on Friday, March 2 show Petrov (left) and Boshirov (right) arriving at Gatwick airport on a flight from Moscow
Friday, March 2 5.40pm: After travelling into London by train, the pair arrive at Victoria station.
6pm: They travelled to Waterloo station, where they were seen between 6pm and 7pm.
7pm: The pair then travelled to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, East London, where they stayed on the night of the Friday, 2 March.
Saturday, 3 March: 11am: They left the hotel and took the underground to Waterloo station, arriving at approximately 11.45am.
The two spies were pictured in Salisbury the day before the attack, when they carried out a reconnaissance trip
2.25pm: Having caught a train to Salisbury from Waterloo, they arrive in the cathedral city, the day before the attack.
4.10pm: After carrying out what police believe was reconnaissance of the Salisbury area, they leave the city and return to London.
8.05pm: They return to their hotel in Bow and stay there for the night.
Sunday, 4 March: 8am: They made the same journey from the hotel, again using the underground from Bow to Waterloo station before continuing their journey by train to Salisbury. CCTV later showed them in the vicinity of Mr Skripal’s house and police believe that they contaminated the front door with novichok.
The pair are pictured at Salisbury train station on the morning of the day the Skripals were poisoned
The pair are pictured in Wilton Road, Salisbury shortly before midday on March, 4, the day the Skripals were poisoned with novichok
The pair were then seen on Salisbury’s Fisherton Road on March 4 shortly after 1pm, around the time the nerve agent is thought to have been smeared on their target’s front door
As they walk around Salisbury on the day of the attack, they are seen on CCTV in Fisherton Road shortly after 1pm
The pair were seen at Salisbury train station shortly before 2pm on March 4. This is thought to be after they left the novichok on the door
4.45pm: The arrived at back Waterloo Station after the hour and half journey from Salisbury.
6.30pm: They boarded the London Underground to London Heathrow Airport.
10:30pm: They fly out of London, returning to Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2585.
The two men were then seen going through security at Heathrow on their way back to Russia at 7.30pm, just hours after the Skripals were found collapsed in the park in Salisbury
Andrei Piontkovsky, a political analyst, raised the prospect that Russia may have disposed of Petrov and Boshirov in order to hide evidence of the alleged crime
A critic of Putin’s regime has claimed the suspects are ‘already dead’ and that a search for them is futile.
Andrei Piontkovsky believes that Petrov and Boshirov could have been executed to hide traces of the alleged crime.
He compared the case to that of Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, the men accused by Britain of poisoning Alexander Litvinenko with polonium in 2006.
Lugovoy and Kovtun went public to deny the claims soon after being accused, meaning the Russian authorities then protected them, said Piontkovsky.
‘Lugovoy and Kovtun rescued themselves by running to Ecko (radio station) and going public,’ the respected mathematician and political analyst said.
‘One (Lugovoy) even had to be made an MP. If ‘Petrov’ and ‘Bashirov’ don’t appear in the coming days, it means they are already dead.’
Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons last week that CCTV evidence ‘clearly’ places the two Russians in the vicinity of the Skripals’ house shortly before the attack on them.
The Met Police released photographs of the elaborate ruse used by the Russian agents including a perfect reconstruction of packaging to transport the weapon
A timeline of the key developments in the Salisbury poisoning case
2010 – Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer jailed for spying for Britain, is released and flown to the UK as part of a swap with Russian agents caught in the United States. He settles in Salisbury.
March 3, 2018 – Yulia Skripal arrives at Heathrow Airport from Russia to visit her father in England.
March 4, 9.15am – Sergei Skripal’s burgundy BMW is seen in suburban Salisbury, near a cemetery, where his wife and son are commemorated.
March 4, 1.30pm – The BMW is seen driving toward central Salisbury.
March 4, 1.40pm – The BMW is parked at a lot in central Salisbury.
A police officer stands guard outside the Zizzi restaurant where Sergei and Yulia had lunch before they collapsed in a nearby park
March 4, afternoon – Sergei and Yulia Skripal visit the Bishops Mill pub.
March 4, 2.20pm to 3.35pm – Sergei and Yulia Skripal have lunch at the Zizzi restaurant.
March 4, 4.15pm – Emergency services are called by a passer-by concerned about a man and a woman in Salisbury city centre.
Officers find the Skripals unconscious on a bench. They are taken to Salisbury District Hospital, where they remain in critical condition.
March 5, morning – Police say two people in Salisbury are being treated for suspected exposure to an unknown substance.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was among the first police officers on the scene and was himself hospitalised
March 5, afternoon – Wiltshire Police, along with Public Health England, declare a ‘major incident’
March 7 – Police announce that the Skripals were likely poisoned with a nerve agent in a targeted murder attempt.
They disclose that a police officer who responded to the incident is in serious condition in a hospital.
March 8 – Home Secretary Amber Rudd describes the use of a nerve agent on UK soil was a ‘brazen and reckless act’ of attempted murder
March 9 – About 180 troops trained in chemical warfare and decontamination are deployed to Salisbury to help with the police investigation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow might be willing to assist with the investigation but expresses resentment at suggestions the Kremlin was behind the attack.
March 11 – Public health officials tell people who visited the Zizzi restaurant or Bishops Mill pub in Salisbury on the day of the attack or the next day to wash their clothes as a precaution.
March 12, morning– Prime Minister Theresa May tells the House of Commons that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
March 12, afternoon – Public Health England ask everyone who visited Salisbury town centre on the day of the attack to wash all of their clothes and belongings.
Officers wearing chemical protection suits secure the forensic tent over the bench where Sergei and Yulia fell ill
March 14 – The PM announces the expulsion of 23 suspected Russian spies from the country’s UK Embassy.
March 22 – Nick Bailey, the police officer injured in the attack, is released from hospital.
March 26 – The United States and 22 other countries join Britain in expelling scores of Russian spies from capitals across the globe.
March 29 – Doctors say Yulia Skripal is ‘improving rapidly’ in hospital.
April 3 – The chief of the Porton Down defence laboratory said it could not verify the ‘precise source’ of the nerve agent.
April 5, morning – Yulia Skripal’s cousin Viktoria says she has received a call from Yulia saying she plans to leave hospital soon.
Dawn Sturgess died in hospital on July 8
April 5, afternoon – A statement on behalf of Yulia is released by Metropolitan Police, in which she says her strength is ‘growing daily’ and that ‘daddy is fine’.
April 9 – Ms Skripal is released from hospital and moved to a secure location.
May 18 – Sergei Skripal is released from hospital 11 weeks after he was poisoned.
June 30 – Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley fall ill at a property in Amesbury, which is eight miles from Salisbury, and are rushed to hospital.
July 4 – Police declare a major incident after Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley are exposed to an ‘unknown substance’, later revealed to be Novichok.
July 5 – Sajid Javid demands an explanation over the two poisonings as he accuses the Russian state of using Britain as a ‘dumping ground for poison’.
July 8 – Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, 44, dies in hospital due to coming into contact with Novichok.
July 10 – Mr Rowley regains consciousness at hospital, and later tells his brother that Dawn had sprayed the Novichok onto her wrists.
July 19 – Police are believed to have identified the perpetrators of the attack.
August 20 – Charlie Rowley is rushed to hospital as he starts to lose his site, but doctors can’t confirm whether it has anything to do with the poisoning.
August 26 – Charlie Rowley admitted to intensive care unit with meningitis
August 28 – Police call in the ‘super recognisers’ in bid to track down the poisoners
September 4 – Charlie Rowley’s brother says he has ‘lost all hope’ and doesn’t have long to live.
Independent investigators, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, confirm the toxic chemical that killed Ms Sturgess was the same nerve agent as that which poisoned the Skripals.
September 5 – Scotland Yard and CPS announce enough evidence to charge Russian nationals Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov for conspiracy to murder over Salisbury nerve agent attack.
Putin’s show of strength: Russia begins ‘war games’ by parading nuclear-capable missiles that can reach London and mobilising 300,000 troops and 36,000 tanks alongside Chinese forces in rehearsals for a ‘large conflict’
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s denial his country had anything to do with the Novichok poisoning comes a day after he paraded nuclear-capable missiles that are able to reach London in rehearsals for a ‘large conflict’ alongside Chinese soldiers.
Beijing issued a veiled threat to US President Donald Trump as it launched its largest every military drills, with 300,000 Russian troops taking part along with Chinese soldiers in a massive show of force that has rattled the West.
The week-long war games dubbed ‘Vostok-2018’ (East-2018), ‘have kicked off’ in far eastern Russia and on the Pacific Ocean, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.
Hundreds of thousands of troops including Chinese soldiers are taking part in Russia’s largest every military drills. Pictured, Russian armored personnel carriers roll during the military exercises in the Chita region, eastern Siberia
The defence ministry released video footage of military vehicles, planes, helicopters and ships getting into position for the initial stage of the drills
Several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria during the games are seen in Russian waters on Tuesday
It broadcast images on Tuesday of military trucks being transported on trains, columns of tanks, armoured vehicles and warships on the move, ships getting into position and combat helicopters and fighter aircraft taking off.
The ministry said this activity was part of the first stage of the exercise, which runs until September 17, and it involved deploying additional forces to Russia’s far east and a naval build-up involving its Northern and Pacific fleets.
The main aim was to check the military’s readiness to move troops large distances, to test how closely infantry and naval forces cooperated, and to perfect command and control procedures. Later stages will involve rehearsals of both defensive and offensive scenarios.
The week-long war games dubbed ‘Vostok-2018’ (East-2018), kicked off in far eastern Russia. Pictured, a military aircraft getting into position on Tuesday
Drone footage captured a Russian fleet being loaded with a missile ahead of the war games dubbed ‘Vostok-2018’
A Russian soldier guards an area during the military exercises in the Chita region of eastern Siberia during the Vostok-2018 exercises in Russia
The defence ministry said the largest military drills since the end of the Cold War will involve about 36,000 tanks and 300,000 troops at sea and on the ground. China is sending 3,200 troops to take part in the exercises later this week.
They coincide with talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of an economic forum in Vladivostok in Russia’s far east on Tuesday, at which he claimed his authorities ‘knew who the Novichok suspects were’.
The military exercises come at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 war games that saw between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in ‘Zapad-81’ (West-81) – the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.
China’s President Xi Jinping (left) and Vladimir Putin (centre) toast with a shot of vodka at a pancakes stand on Tuesday
Russian armored personnel carriers roll through the Chita region, Eastern Siberia, during the war games on Tuesday
The Russian army is rolling out all of its latest additions for the massive military exercises including T-80 and T-90 tanks
Russian military helicopters fly, in the Chita region, Eastern Siberia, during the Vostok 2018 exercises in Russia
Some 30 aircraft from the Chinese air force will also take part in the five day drills.
The Chinese claimed the vast operation was not ‘directed against any third party’ and would focus purely on ‘defences, firepower strikes and counterattack.’
The latest in a series of massive drills ordered by Putin come at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
Vostok-2018 also features more than twice the number of troops in the entire British armed forces, which is just below 150,000.
The Kremlin has also accused NATO of expanding westwards and threatening Russian national security.