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Russian poisoning suspects: We were in Salisbury to see a world-famous clock

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Last week the UK revealed the names and faces of the two GRU agents they believe poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent earlier this year. The police laid out a detailed timeline using security video shot from around the city of Salisbury as well as their movements on the subway from London. Theresa May put the attack firmly at the feet of the Russian government.

Yesterday, Putin himself denied that the two men identified by the Brits were Russian agents, saying they were only ordinary civilians who would “tell their story soon.” Putin was right about that. In fact, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov (probably not their real names) appeared on the Kremlin-run RT network yesterday, not long after Putin’s statement. They told interviewer Margarita Simonyan they were just tourists who’d decided to visit the town of Salisbury in the UK to see a famous clock.

SIMONYAN: What were you doing there?

PETROV: Our friends have been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city.

SIMONYAN: Salisbury? A wonderful city?

PETROV: Yes.

SIMONYAN: What makes it so wonderful?

BOSHIROV: It’s a tourist city. They have a famous cathedral there, Salisbury Cathedral. It’s famous throughout Europe and, in fact, throughout the world, I think. It’s famous for its 123-meter spire. It’s famous for its clock. It’s one of the oldest working clocks in the world.

It’s interesting that this guy, who is totally not a Russian agent, remembers the exact height of the spire as if he had been reading the Wikipedia page in preparation for this interview. Both guys claim there must be a video of them near the cathedral and question why the UK authorities haven’t released it. The whole interview reads like a barely-concealed trolling effort. So here’s the two suspects’ response to the central question about who they are:

SIMONYAN: Do you work for the GRU?

PETROV: And you, do you?

SIMONYAN: Me? No, I don’t, and you?

PETROV: I don’t.

BOSHIROV: Me neither.

They’re treating it like a joke. Something similar happens when they are asked whether they went to Skripal’s home:

SIMONYAN: So, while you were in Salisbury, did you go anywhere near the Skripals home?

PETROV: Maybe. We don’t know.

BOSHIROV: What about you? Do you know where their house is?

SIMONYAN: I don’t. Do you?

BOSHIROV: We don’t either.

PETROV: I wish somebody told us where it was.

BOSHIROV: Maybe we passed it, or maybe we didn’t. I’d never heard about them before this nightmare started. I’d never heard this name before. I didn’t know anything about them.

UK authorities say they were within a couple blocks of the house during their travels. The Novichok nerve agent was spread on the front door of the house.

These guys were almost certainly operating on Putin’s orders and there’s no chance they’ll face justice in a UK court, so they have little to fear at this point. Just a couple of ordinary fitness coaches who wanted to see a famous clock and a 123-meter spire. Here’s part one of the RT interview. Parts 2 and 3 are available here.

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