Russians claiming to be Salisbury suspects say they were just tourists

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Petrov and Boshirov, both charged in absentia by Britain last week for trying to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the nerve agent Novichok, went on the Kremlin-funded RT satellite channel Thursday to proclaim their innocence, deny they were agents of the military intelligence service widely known as the GRU, and say they were merely tourists in the city southwest of London.

The Moscow-based editor-in-chief of RT, Margarita Simonyan, said that the two men had contacted her by phone and she spent an evening with them before the clips of the interview were aired on Thursday.

"What were you doing there?"

During the interview, RT quoted Petrov as saying they arrived in London on March 2 and tried to visit Salisbury the following day but were thwarted by snow and returned the day after.

"It's famous for its 123-metre spire, it's famous for its clock, one of the first ever created in the world that's still working".

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".

The investigation, Bellingcat said, showed that, while the two men were registered in the central Russian resident database and were issued internal passports under their names in 2009, no records exist for the two prior to 2009. RT has a licence to operate in the United Kingdom but is under investigation by regulators over its coverage of the Salisbury affair.

Russian Federation has denied any involved in the Britain attack.

"They said if they found the pictures they would send them to me but I am still waiting".

The full unedited interview still hasn't been published online but the RT anchors addressed the obvious question of why these two men would approach RT, a cable network whose audience is primarily people outside of Russian Federation.

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"We walked around, enjoying those lovely English Gothic buildings", Boshirov said.

They declined to give any other details about their lives, except to say they work in the nutritional supplements business.

The UK believes the two to be operatives of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

"I've travelled to the United Kingdom a few times and, to be honest, I had to look at a map", said Svetlana Melekhova, an HR specialist in Moscow who said she had participated in a language exchange in London.

The pair were asked whether they had been in the vicinity of the Skripals' house, which is where police claim the suspects sprayed the Novichok.

The attack left Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.

The men are civilians and "we know who they are", Putin told an economic forum in Vladivostok on Wednesday in his first comments on the United Kingdom allegations. One of the bystanders later died from the Soviet-era nerve agent after she discovered it in a park disguised in a perfume bottle.

"RT is already under intense scrutiny and this is certainly not going to help matters", said John Enser, a partner in media law at CMS in London. "They said they would not go to the studio and only agreed to do the interview in her office".

Putin expressed hope they would come forward and speak publicly.

Detectives believe it is likely the two suspects, thought to be aged around 40, travelled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov are not their real names.

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