Two Russians accused by United Kingdom in spy poisoning to give interview

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"Friends have been telling us for a long time we should visit this handsome city", said the broad-shouldered Petrov.

Police said that they believed the names were aliases - but the two men insisted they were their real names and denied they were intelligence operatives.

"The lies and blatant fabrications in this interview given to a Russian state-sponsored TV station are an insult to the public's intelligence", Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said.

British officials dismissed their claims and said they stood by allegations that the poison attack was approved at the highest levels of the Russian government.

Two Russians appeared on state television on Thursday, saying they had been wrongly accused by Britain of trying to murder a former Russian spy and his daughter in England and had been visiting Salisbury in March for tourism.

July 8 - Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, 44, dies in hospital due to coming into contact with Novichok.

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A handout picture taken at Salisbury train station in Salisbury, west of London on March 3, 2018, and released by the British Metropolitan Police Service in London on September 5, 2018, shows Alexander Petrov (R) and Ruslan Boshirov.

In a translation from Russian, the pair told RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan they worked in the fitness industry.

According to British police, the two men arrived in London on March 2, a Friday, and spent two nights in an east London hotel. "It's famous for its clock, one of the first ever created in the world that's still working". They may have approached Sergei Skripal's house by chance, but did not know where it was located, they said.

They are spotted around an hour later on Fisherton Street/Bridge Street at 1.08pm walking towards the train station, which they left around 1.50pm, heading for London.

"From Heathrow Airport, they returned to Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2585, departing at 10.30pm on Sunday, 4 March".

"They will want desperately to find out how MI5 has been able to assure the Prime Minister these men are GRU with absolute confidence after painstaking intelligence gathering".

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They have also commented on the British police's theory that they had brought a Nina Ricci perfume bottle full of the Novichok toxic nerve agent used for the poisoning. "What do you have in common that you spend so much time together?"

"Let's not breach anyone's privacy". We came to you for protection, but this is turning into some kind of interrogation. So, he said, they made a decision to take the train back to Salisbury the following day.

But Salisbury MP John Glen said their statements are not credible and what they have said does not match intelligence the United Kingdom has on them. "What is our fault?"

Many referred to the idea that the pair had travelled all the way to Salisbury just to see its cathedral.

But many were quick to point out that on March 4, the second day the two Russians visited Salisbury, the snow from previous days had cleared, and both CCTV images of Ruslan and Boshirov, and pictures taken by the Journal when the Skripals fell ill show completely unobstructed pathways. "But very unusual to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage".

"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. Associated Press writer Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed.

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