Russian poisoning suspects: we were in Salisbury to admire cathedral

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The two men accused of carrying out a nerve agent attack on a former spy on British soil broke their cover Thursday to deny their involvement in the fatal mission and claim they had no links to the Russian military intelligence service.

Britain's government has accused Petrov and Boshirov of trying to kill the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia.

They went on the record to say they had only been in the town to see the "wonderful city", but many are refusing to accept their story.

"Today - just as we have seen throughout - they have responded with obfuscation and lies".

The naming of suspected GRU agents Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov as the Salisbury Novichok assassins has reportedly left Russian intelligence chiefs reeling.

May spokeswoman Alison Donnelly told reporters Thursday the United Kingdom remains confident "These men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service who used a devastatingly toxic chemical weapon on the streets of our country". Inspired, as it were, by the 123-meter spire (a statistic available in the second paragraph of the Salisbury Cathedral Wikipedia page), they went to Salisbury twice.

They said they did not work for GRU, were ordinary businessmen, and the victim of what they called "a fantastical coincidence". "What is our fault?"

The Skripals survived being poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok, but Dawn Sturgess - a woman not connected to the original attack - died in July after being exposed to the same substance.

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "there is nothing criminal about them" and called them "civilians".

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The two men say that they can't leave their homes in Russian Federation any more out of fear that they'll be recognised on the street.

Petrov, in Thursday's interview, said they went back on Sunday, March 4, the same date the Skripals were found slumped on a bench poisoned with Novichok.

"I think they're just two guys who have been blamed for this - now they're in shock, they're scared, they don't know what to do".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any request from London to interview them would be considered in "strict accordance with the law" but so far the British had rejected any offer to co-operate in the investigation, the Tass news agency reported.

The mobile phone they used to make contact with her also no longer appears to be in service, she said.

He claimed his life had been turned "upside down" and added: "We're afraid of going out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones".

Two Russian men's claims that they were innocent tourists wrongly branded as would-be assassins met with mockery in Britain Friday and even raised eyebrows in the usually patriotic Russian media. They recovered after treatment in the hospital.

"On Sunday, 4 March, they made the same journey from the hotel, again using the underground from Bow to Waterloo station at approximately 8.05am, before continuing their journey by train to Salisbury. Sadly, it's what we've come to expect", the spokesman said. Boshirov said. He went on to claim that if they had such an item in their luggage, it would have been hard to get past airport customs agents without arousing suspicion.

"We walked around and enjoyed this English Gothic architecture", he said.