Their account appears to indicate that Russia does not plan to deny the time-stamped CCTV footage produced by Britain that shows the pair at various locations between March 2-4 — but merely to suggest it had somehow been misinterpreted, and that there was an innocent explanation for everything.
The UK government dismissed the pair’s claim that they were merely civilian tourists. “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,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.
“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.”
British prosecutors said last week they had “sufficient evidence” to charge the two Russian nationals with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder in connection with the attack on March 4. Prosecutors say the Skripals came into contact with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent.
Britain is not applying to Russia for the extradition of the two men as Russian does not extradite its own nationals. However, prosecutors have obtained a European Arrest Warrant and police have asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants too.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Salisbury attack.
We came to see Stonehenge
London’s Metropolitan Police last week gave a detailed account of the pair’s movements during their trip to the UK, accompanied by CCTV stills that would have been difficult for the Russians to dispute.
But rather than being expert members of Russia’s spy service, as Britain alleged, they were simply a pair of foreign tourists on a weekend trip away from Moscow.
Yes, they were the same two men shown on CCTV at London’s Gatwick Airport at about 3 p.m. on Friday March 2, fresh from an Aeroflot flight from Moscow. But rather than being on a mission to murder a double agent, their intent was to visit historic sites such as Stonehenge, which is about 10 miles from Salisbury.
They did not offer an explanation as to why, instead of heading west out of London, the pair headed in the opposite direction. Eschewing the wide range of tourist accommodations in Salisbury, they favored a basic hotel in the east end of London.
On Saturday March 3, police said, the men caught a train to Salisbury, arriving at about 2:25 p.m. They left the city less than two hours later to return to London. Police believe the journey was a reconnaissance trip.
Petrov did not dispute the timing. “We came there on March 2, then went to a railway station to see the timetable,” Petrov said, according to RT’s translation of the interview.
The pair returned the next day to complete their tour, they said, but were apparently thwarted by the inclement weather. “We arrived in Salisbury on March 3 and tried to walk through the town, but we lasted for only half an hour because it was covered in snow.”
“Of course, we went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere. The town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back (to London).”
A tweet by Stonehenge on March 3 shows the historic site was indeed closed on March 3 because of snow.
The following day, they traveled again by train to Salisbury, arriving about 11:45 a.m. Just before midday, CCTV footage showed them in the vicinity of Sergei Skripal’s home, where they are believed to have applied Novichok to the front door. Police say the footage was captured “moments before the attack.”
The two men said they had indeed returned to Salisbury on Sunday, but it was to see the cathedral and Old Sarum because the weather had improved. Police say the men spent less than two hours there.
“We spent no more than an hour in Salisbury, mainly because of the lags between trains,” Boshirov told RT. “Maybe we did [approach] Skripal’s house, but we don’t know where it is located.”
At 1:05 p.m. they were caught on CCTV on Fisherton Street in Salisbury, heading back toward the train station. They boarded a train back to London at 1:50 p.m. The pair passed through passport control at London Heathrow Airport at about 7:30 p.m. before boarding a flight back to Moscow.
The weather wasn’t much better there: Photographs from Moscow on March 4 show heavy snow and extensive slush on the city’s streets.