Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT’s editor-in-chief they had nothing to do with the Skripals’ poisoning and are now scared to go outside, after the UK pointed to them as Russian intelligence agents on a kill mission.
UK prosecutors claimed their names were not real, but Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov have confirmed their identities in an interview with RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan.
Both men said emphatically that they were not Russian intelligence agents and were merely sightseeing in Salisbury. They said they wanted to visit the “wonderful town” of Salisbury but realized they came at a bad time – and not just because of the wet English weather.
The subsequent accusations caught them completely by surprise.
The two men told Simonyan they went to London to “hang out,” and decided to also visit Salisbury upon the advice of their friends. The town, situated close to the world-famous Stonehenge, also attracted them because of the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “famous not just in Europe, but in the whole world.”
Salisbury Cathedral’s 123-meter spire and medieval clock were reason enough to jump on a train from London to Salisbury, Boshirov and Petrov explained. Built in the 13th century, it is remarkable for many reasons. Apart from having a 14th century spire, the tallest in the UK, and the “world’s oldest working mechanical clock” which was built in 1386, it also hosts the best preserved of the four original copies of Magna Carta.
But the weather interfered with the two men’s travel plans. They tried to walk through the town when they arrived there by train on March 3, but that “lasted for only half an hour because it was covered in snow,” Petrov told Simonyan. There was “muddy slush everywhere.”
On March 4 though, “everything had melted away in London, there was warm and sunny weather.” So the two decided to go to Salisbury again to see Old Sarum and the cathedral, “to finish this thing.” The “thing” in question might have sounded quite sinister given the scale of accusations made by the British, and Simonyan had to clarify: “What thing?” Petrov replied: “To see the cathedral.”
Simonyan then challenged them about their stay in the UK. British investigators claimed Petrov and Boshirov transported Novichok, the military-grade nerve agent purportedly used in the attack, in a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle.
“Isn’t it silly for straight men to have women’s perfume? The customs are checking everything, they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it,” Boshirov said.
They also stressed that not only did they not have Novichok in a Nina Ricci bottle, they didn’t have it at all, or any other poison for that matter.
Both Petrov and Boshirov sounded distressed as they spoke about how much their lives changed since they were named in the UK as Russian intelligence agents who attempted to assassinate the Skripals. “When your life has been turned upside down, you don’t know what to do and where to go,” Boshirov said.
When asked about the frequent trips to Europe – and Switzerland in particular – reported by the British media, the two said that the number of visits to Switzerland was simply exaggerated.
“If memory serves me well, we had just a couple of trips to Switzerland,” Petrov said, adding that while traveling there on vacation, they also combined it with some “business trips.” In addition, while visiting Switzerland, it is “convenient” to see the sights in neighboring countries like France, Boshirov explained.
While the UK claimed the two were trained intelligence officers, the pair themselves said their occupation was far more modest. “We are owners of a mid-tier business,” Petrov told Simonyan, but chose to stop there. According to him, keeping quiet on the details of their business was the only way to protect their clients given the current situation.
“In brief, this is the fitness industry, everything related to sports industry, vitamins and microelements,” he said. According to Petrov and Boshirov, they traveled to Europe to do business from time to time to examine the market and “see if there is something new – some biologically active additives, amino acids, vitamins, microelements.”
Asked if they were the people in the screenshots released by the UK, the men said they were.
“Yes. We have these clothes; this jacket is hanging in my wardrobe. The shoes were bought in England… These are the clothes we are currently wearing.”
“Are these clothes currently in Russia?” Simonyan asked.
“Yes, of course, we can show them.”
‘I don’t know if they are gay or not’
Simonyan later released a series of tweets about the interview. She said her impression was that the men “were nervous and were sweating much.” At one point in the interview, she suggested turning on the air conditioning, and Petrov said, “yes, it’s hot in here.” She also said she poured them some cognac to “give them courage.”
Trying to provoke them into telling more, Simonyan said all CCTV videos released by the British showed Petrov and Boshirov living together and walking together. “What is in common between you?” she asked. Anticipating further questions on this, she wrote on Twitter: “Guys, I don’t know if they are gay or not.”
Apparently, the men were quite distressed by the UK media showing photos of a hotel room with a single bed. They insisted they are straight, saying there were double rooms next to it, adding it’s “perfectly normal for tourists to stay together in a double room. It saves money and it’s practical. It’s more fun that way and it’s also easier. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this.”
RT’s editor-in-chief revealed other behind-the-scenes details, including her perception of Petrov’s and Boshirov’s personalities. The two were “sporty men with quite trendy haircuts.” She said one of them smoked, the other didn’t.
They demanded that only one camera run during the interview and refused to show their IDs. But in the end a second camera was present, filming Simonyan asking the questions. They said they would not go to the studio and only agreed to do the interview in her office.
Simonyan stressed that the two men’s replies are their own and that they were not told what to say. People can decide for themselves whether or not to believe them. She has chosen to not comment on her own views.