Poison pair claim they were simply tourists in first interview

Russian accused deny any wrongdoing after UK allegation of nerve agent poisoning

Authorities investigate following the poisoning in Salisbury last March.

It is all just an “incredible, fatal coincidence” say the pair accused of poisoning a former Russian double agent on British soil. They had been merely tourists exploring the “wonderful town” of Salisbury – and allegations leveled from the United Kingdom government that they were undercover agents carrying out a hit with nerve agent are emphatically false. Now Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov want an apology.

Such is the latest development in an increasingly bizarre narrative following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March – a saga which continues to pit London and Moscow at loggerheads over what is true and what is not.

Only one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped the “nothing special” pair would appear in front of the nation did an interview with state media outlet Russia Today air.

Speaking with editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, the pair laid out their version of events. The men, who claim to work in sports nutrition, said they were forced to visit Salisbury twice over the March weekend due to poor weather conditions.

“Of course, we went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” Petrov said. “The town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back [to London].”

“Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town,” Petrov said.

“[Salisbury Cathedral is] famous not just in Europe, but in the whole world. It’s famous for its 123-metre spire, it’s famous for its clock, the first one [of its kind] ever created in the world, which is still working,” Boshirov added.

The two men, who confirmed Boshirov and Petrov were their real names, admitted they may have passed Skripal’s house by chance during their time in the English city.

Any accusation they were members of Russia’s military intelligence service the GRU – as maintained by the UK – was flatly denied. The pair said their lives have been turned upside down from the accusations and wanted an apology over the saga.

“We’re afraid to go out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones,” Boshirov said. “I do hope that the affair will be finally resolved and the British side will eventually apologize for this commotion and will identify those really involved in the Skripal affair.”

An apology does not appear to be forthcoming. British officials said Russia’s new denial was so “risible” it left them speechless, The Guardian reports.

A government spokesman reiterated the men were prime suspects in relation to the Salisbury attack and the response only serves to confuse.

“The [UK] government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service – the GRU – who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country. We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March. Today, just as we have seen throughout, they have responded with obfuscation and lies,” the spokesman said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said last week an investigation into the March nerve agent incident pointed directly at Russian involvement from a senior level of the state.

France, Germany, Canada and the United States of America then agreed with the UK’s assessment in officially naming Russia as the alleged culprit behind two poisonings this year on British soil using the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

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