Russia: UK's novichok interview allegations 'absurd'

Salisbury Cathedral which the prime suspects in the Novichok nerve agent claimed to have been visiting

It was a fine performance, given that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov had a very short time to learn their lines, brush up their knowledge of early English Gothic architecture and take on the parts of a pair of bemused civilian tourists rather than the military intelligence poisoners they so unmistakably are.

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. And the exotic poison is also blamed for the death of Dawn Sturgess, 44, in July, after her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, gave her what turned out to be a bottle of bogus perfume that contained the nerve agent.

James Slack, spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, derided their claims as "lies and blatant fabrications".

British officials have called this explanation "risible", saying it is "clear" the men are Russian intelligence officers, according to the Guardian.

The U.S., France, Canada and Germany said they had "full confidence" in the U.K.'s assessment that the two suspects were Russian agents and that the operation "was with the greatest probability approved at high levels of the government".

Sadly Kent Police RPU's information about Rochester is unlikely to reach Boshirov and Petrov - as the tweet has now been deleted. "We got wet, took the nearest train and came back (to London)".

United Kingdom prosecutors say they have obtained a European arrest warrant for two Russians, identified as Alexander Petrov (R) and Ruslan Boshirov (L), blamed for the Salisbury attack.

Petrov, asked what the duo were doing in England, said their friends had always been encouraging them to visit the "wonderful town" of Salisbury.

The suspected assassins' alibi of tourists visiting the "123 metre spire" of the town's cathedral also sparked incredulity.

Both men on Thursday denied that they are GRU agents or that they were in possession of the Soviet-made Novichok nerve agent. Britain released CCTV footage and photographs showing the two men walking in Skripal's neighborhood on March 4, the day of the attack.

"RT is already under intense scrutiny and this is certainly not going to help matters", said John Enser, a partner in media law at CMS in London. "We'll see soon enough", he said.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow described the interview as carefully choreographed and weird, pointing out that in tone and content it matched the whole Russian response to the case - flat denial mixed with mockery.

The pair, who the United Kingdom suspect of being members of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, complained their lives had been "turned upside down" and RT said they sounded distressed during the interview.

"We have repeatedly asked Russian Federation to account for what happened in Salisbury in March", Britain said. They'd been "extremely nervous and sweating" during the interview and it's for viewers to decide whether to believe them, she said.

What happened to the Skripals?

British police accuse the pair of being intelligence officers who tried to kill former KGB spy Sergei Skripal. So, if we had anything suspicious, they would definitely have questions. They recovered after treatment in the hospital.

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