Novichok Suspects Insist They Were Only In Salisbury To See The Cathedral

They rattled off what sounded suspiciously like a Wikipedia entry.

The two Russian nationals named by the UK Government as key suspects in the poisoning of four people in Salisbury have given an extraordinary interview to Russian state media, claiming they were in town to visit the cathedral and are involving in nothing more than a "fantastical fatal coincidence".

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov -- the names they traveled on, although British authorities say these are aliases -- have been charged by Britian with attempting to murder former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok.

The pair traveled to London from Russia on March 2, making two trips to Salisbury on the Saturday and Sunday, and then flying home again.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are seen on CCTV at Heathrow Airport on March 4, 2018. Photo: Metroplitan Police handout via REUTERS

They insisted, however, they simply took a weekend break to London to "cut loose", adding in multiple day trips to Salisbury to see the sights.

"Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town," said Petrov, according to a translation provided by RT.

"There's the famous Salisbury cathedral. It's famous not only in Europe, but the whole world. It's famous for its 123-metre spire. It's famous for its clock, one of the first ever created in the word that's still working."

Their answers did not explain why the two men were caught on CCTV at Skripal's house, nor did it explain why traces of Novichok were found in their London hotel room.

The two men cut their trip to Salisbury on Saturday short, they said, because bad weather made it an unpleasant experience. Not to be put off, they made the four-hour return trip again the next day to see the sights.

"We wanted to walk around the city but since the whole city was covered in snow, we spent only 30 minutes there," said Petrov. "We were all wet."

"For some reason, nobody talks about this," said Boshirov.

Images of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov released by Metroplitan Police.

The extraordinary 14-minute interview includes accusations that the pair are a couple ("Speaking of you being straight men, all the footage features you two together ... what do you have in common that you spend so much time together?") and body-building tips ("Advice on how to build up your biceps is not as trendy now – body shaping is… so-called 'drying out',  living healthy and eating proper").

The interviewer repeatedly presses the pair to supply tourist pics they say the snapped during their trip, and is forced to explain that his job is not to "protect" them, but to ask questions.

The British government has responded by calling the television interview "an insult to the public's intelligence" and "deeply offensive".

“The 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," said a spokesperson for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

“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.”

Several months after the first attack, a British woman in Wilshire, Dawn Sturgess, died from Novichok poisoning, with her partner Charles Rowley falling critically ill.

It was found that a discarded perfume bottle containing the poison was brought home by Rowley.

A European arrest warrant has been issued for Petrov and Boshirov, but Russia's constitution forbids citizens to be extradited.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Lead photo: RT