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13 September 2018
Two men named as suspects in the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in the UK have said they were merely tourists.
The men, named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, told the RT channel that they went sightseeing in Salisbury but returned to London within an hour. They are accused by the UK of trying to kill Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. The UK has described them as agents of Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU.
"The town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back" to London, they told RT, Russia's state-run international broadcaster.
The UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said there is enough evidence to charge the men, who are understood to have travelled to London from Moscow on 2 March on Russian passports.
Two days later, police say, they sprayed the military-grade nerve agent Novichok on the front door of Mr Skripal's home in the Wiltshire city of Salisbury, before travelling home to Russia later that day.
After the RT interview was aired a UK government spokesperson reiterated that "these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service - the GRU", and again accused Moscow of "obfuscation and lies".
On Wednesday President Vladimir Putin had said "there is nothing criminal about them". He called them "civilians".
Mr Skripal and his daughter fell critically ill but recovered after weeks of intensive care in hospital. Their current whereabouts are being kept secret.
UK police are linking the attack to a separate Novichok poisoning on 30 June, when Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley fell ill at a house in Amesbury, about 13km (eight miles) away.
In the RT interview the men confirmed their names as those announced by the UK investigators - Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. "Those are our real names," they said.
But they denied the allegation that they were GRU agents - instead they said they were in the fitness industry.
"Maybe we did [approach] Skripal's house, but we don't know where is it located," Mr Boshirov said.
When RT's Margarita Simonyan asked them about Novichok they emphatically denied having had the nerve agent with them, and denied carrying the modified Nina Ricci perfume bottle which, UK investigators say, contained the substance.
"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," Mr Boshirov said.
Mr Petrov said friends had recommended Salisbury to them because "there's the famous Salisbury cathedral, famous for its 123-metre spire".
UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has warned that the men, thought to be aged about 40, will be caught and prosecuted if they ever step out of Russia.
The CPS is not applying to Russia for their extradition, as Russia does not extradite its own nationals.
However, a European Arrest Warrant has been obtained in case they travel to the EU.