Two Russian men’s claims they were innocent tourists wrongly accused of an attempted assassination in Britain raised eyebrows on Friday – even yet in Russia’s usually patriotic media.
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The men said that definately not plotting to poison a turncoat spy with a deadly nerve agent, these were really just in England to admire the Gothic architecture in the populous city of Salisbury.
In an interview aired by Russian broadcaster RT on Thursday, the men defined as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov said that they had nothing in connection with the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
In Russia meanwhile, Kommersant newspaper questioned why the men weren’t able show identification or give further information regarding their work or private lives.
Petrov said they worked as entrepreneurs in the fitness and supplements industries, but business paper RBK said it had found no continuing business registered under their two names in Russia.
The paper also noted they showed no evidence that they had managed to get to Salisbury cathedral ever, that they cited because the city’s main draw.
The newspaper Vedomosti headlined its report on the broadcast: “An interview, but no given information.
Yet some on the streets of Moscow took the men’s claims at face value.
“I believe they’re telling the reality… They’re a standard pair who just experienced trouble, I’m sure they feel pretty bad now,” said Leonid, a 58-year-old entrepreneur.
“They explained everything simply and clearly yesterday, why they there went, what they there have been doing, what the elements was like,” he told AFP.
The men raised eyebrows if they said that they had gone to the cathedral city twice in two days because heavy snow forced them to show back on the first visit.
They reeled off factual statements about the “beautiful city” and the friends’ recommendations that had inspired them to go to.
RT head Margarita Simonyan, who conducted the interview, hinted the men is actually a gay couple through the broadcast and down the road Twitter.
But Maria Kazimi, a learning student in Moscow, rejected the theory the pair were a gay couple or spies on a killing mission either.
“Why can’t two friends visit a city and spending some time together?” the 18-year-old asked.
“I believe they’re just two guys who’ve been blamed because of this – now they’re in shock, they’re scared, they don’t really know what to accomplish.”
The Kremlin dismissed as “absurd” London’s declare that the interview contained lies.
London accuses both men of putting the nerve agent Novichok on leading door handle of former double agent Skripal in the poisoning attack on March 4.
He and his daughter Yulia became seriously ill, while a officer on the case was hospitalized also.
They all recovered but a fake perfume bottle containing Novichok was found by way of a local man. It had been distributed by him to his girlfriend, who died later.
The poisoning dragged Moscow’s relations with London along with other Western powers to a minimal point not seen because the Cold War.
London said both men were Russian agents, which Moscow denies.
Their interview prompted mockery and scorn in Britain.
“The final time Russian military claimed to be on christmas was if they invaded Ukraine in 2014,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted.
“Just what a bold move, on Sunday trains to obtain themselves to Salisbury and back and to Heathrow to rely,” one Twitter user noted, in mention of Britain’s unreliable weekend rail services.
“The Spy Who Went Home SINCE IT Was Cold,” another wrote.