The pair identify themselves as Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and deny their participation in the crime" />

Russian citizens suspected in Novichok poisoning case in the UK give interview

The pair identify themselves as Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and deny their participation in the crime

TV channel Russia Today has published an interview with two Russian citizens who identify themselves as Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. The British authorities have accused them of having made an attempt on the life of former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia.

Background

The attempt on the life of former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia was carried out back in March 2018 in the British city of Salisbury.

The pair were saved thanks to the quick medical attention they received. A policeman who arrived at the scene of the poisoning was also hurt in the attack.

The nerve agent Novichok was used in the attack: it was developed and produced in the Soviet Union.

Three weeks later in Salisbury, a woman died and her companion was hospitalised. This took place after they discovered a perfume bottle in the trash in which there were traces of Novichok.

The UK police claim that six Russians were involved in the poisoning of the Skripal family, two of which are allegedly Ruslav Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov.

The UK police say that they are employees of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Federation, and that their names may be false. Petrov and Boshirov have been placed on the international wanted list.

Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May says that the operation ‘could not have been conducted without the go-ahead from the highest officials of the Russian Federation’.

The UK, US and others have introduced sanctions against the Russian Federation for the attack on the Skripals. The sanctions are unprecedented in their severity since the times of the Cold War.

Reaction

On 12 September Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly advised the suspects in the attack on the Skripals to ‘speak to the media and tell everything themselves’.

“We found them. They are civilians, not criminals,” he added.

The next day, Boshirov and Petrov gave an interview to the Russian state channel RT.

According to their version of events, they came to the United Kingdom as tourists. In Salisbury, they wanted to see the Salisbury Cathedral. They say they do not work in the Main Intelligence Directorate, and that the accusations of organising the attack on the life of the Skripals have ‘broken their lives’. They have appealed to the media ‘for defence’.

Unofficial reactions

Russian social media users, journalists and experts immediately reacted to the interview:

“ ‘Petrov’ and ‘Bashirov’ had the telephone number of the main editor of TV channel Russia Today – the main Russian propaganda resource.”

“They have not presented any documents that confirm their identity.”

“ ‘Petrov’ and ‘Boshirov’ have not shown any photos of themselves sightseeing in Salisbury.”

“They lied in response to the question as to why they visited Salisbury twice – on 2 and 3 March. Their version that states that there was a lot of snow on the first day and that they couldn’t get around has not been confirmed: on that day in that area, the weather was sunny and there was slightly-rainy weather.”

“The question as to why traces of Novichok were discovered in their hotel room in London was not asked.”

“The question as to why they reserved tickets for two flights, one on the evening of 3 March and one on the morning of 4 March, was not asked.”

Official reactions

The MP for Salisbury in Wiltshire, John Glen, said that the statements of the suspects claiming they went to the city to see the sites does not warrant belief.

Glen says that their story as laid out in the interview with RT does not correspond with intelligence information in possession of the British special services.

Glen ironically noted that he was happy to find out about their touristic interest, but was surprised that they came to Salisbury for ‘just two days and that they had Novichok in their luggage’.

The British PM Theresa May has called the reaction of Russian officials to the Skripal case ‘offensive’ and that their statements are ‘a challenge to common sense.’

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