UK’s suspects in Skripal case come in and talk exclusively with RT’s editor-in-chief
UK prosecutors claimed their names were not real, but Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov have confirmed their identities in an interview with RT’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan.
Both men said emphatically that they were not Russian intelligence agents and were merely sightseeing in Salisbury. They said they wanted to visit the “wonderful town” of Salisbury but realized they came at a bad time – and not just because of the muddy English weather.
The subsequent accusations caught them completely by surprise.
The pair told Simonyan they went to London to “hang out,” and decided to also visit Salisbury upon the advice of their friends. The town, situated close to the world-famous Stonehenge, also attracted them because of the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “famous not just in Europe, but in the whole world.”
Its 123-meter spire and clock, the first one of its kind anywhere in the world, was a reason solid enough to jump on a train from London to Salisbury, Boshirov and Petrov explained. But then the weather interfered with their travel plans.
They tried to walk through the town when they arrived there by train on March 3, but that “lasted for only half an hour because it was covered in snow,” Petrov told Simonyan. There was “muddy slush everywhere.”
On March 4 though “everything had melted away in London, there was warm and sunny weather.” So the two decided to go to Salisbury again to see the Old Sarum and the cathedral, “to finish this thing.”The “thing” in question might have sounded quite sinister given the scale of accusations made by the British, and Simonyan had to clarify: “What thing?” Petrov replied: “To see the cathedral.”
Simonyan then challenged them about their stay in the UK. British investigators claimed Petrov and Boshirov transported Novichok, the military-grade nerve agent purportedly used in the attack, in a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle.
“Isn’t it silly for straight men 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,” Boshirov said.
They also underlined that not only did they not have Novichok in a Nina Ricci bottle, they didn’t have it at all, or any other poison for that matter.
Both Petrov and Boshirov sounded distressed as they spoke about how much their lives had changed since they were named in the UK as Russian intelligence agents who attempted to assassinate the Skripals. “When your life has been turned upside down, you don’t know what to do and where to go,” Boshirov said.
Asked whether they had recently been to any European state, the two said they were.
“Sure… in Switzerland we were for a couple of times… we spent New year in Switzerland.” The journey was part of their vacation, however the two have also been in Europe to do business that is related to sports nutrition.
“We examine the market, look if there is something new – some biologically active additives, amino acids, vitamins, microelements. We pick up the most necessary, come here and decide how to deliver the new products from this market here.”
After asked if they were people on the screenshots released by the UK, the men said they indeed were.
“Yes. We have these clothes, this jacket is hanging in my wardrobe. The shoes are bought in England…This is the clothes were are currently wearing.”
“Are these clothes currently in Russia?” Simonyan asked.
“Yes, of course, we can show it.”
The RT editor-in-chief also touched upon the most puzzling picture of the two, the photo from the Gatwick airport.
“Here is the picture that puzzled the whole world, Gatwick airport, you are leaving through a gate literally in the same times, almost the same second. How did it happen?” she asked.
“We always go together through the same corridor and the same custom service officer or a policeman. One goes, the other waits. We went through the corridor together, we always [do it] together. How did it happen? It’s better to ask them [UK police],” Boshirov replied.
‘I don’t know if they are gay or not’
Simonyan later released a series of tweets about the interview. She said her impression was that the men “were nervous and were sweating much.” At one point in the interview, she suggested turning on the air conditioning, and Petrov said,“yes, it’s hot in here.” She also said she poured them some cognac to “give them courage.”
Trying to provoke them into telling more, Simonyan said all CCTV videos released by the British showed Petrov and Boshirov living together and walking together. “What is in common between you?” she asked. Anticipating further questions on this, she wrote on Twitter: “Guys, I don’t know if they are gay or not.” She added that they didn’t try to hit on her.
RT’s editor-in-chief revealed other behind-the-scenes details, including her perception of Petrov’s and Boshirov’s personalities. The two were “sporty men with quite trendy haircuts.” She said one of them smoked, the other didn’t.
They demanded that only one camera run during the interview and refused to show their IDs. They said they would not go to the studio and only agreed to do the interview in her office.
Simonyan stressed that the two men’s answers are their own responsibility, and everyone can decide for themselves whether to believe them or not. She has chosen to not comment on her own perception.