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Theresa May lashes out at 'blatant' lies in interview with Russian novichok suspects

The prime minister said claims made by the men are 'offensive' to the people hurt in the chemical weapons incident

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 13 September 2018 17:30 BST
Russian novichok suspects appear on TV to claim they were tourists visiting Salibury Cathedral

Theresa May has condemned the lies and “blatant fabrications” in the interview given by the two Russian men accused of perpetrating the Salisbury novichok attack.

The prime minister said the interview given to Russian state-sponsored television was offensive to the victims of the chemical weapons attack aimed at killing ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

It follows an interview with the Kremlin-funded RT network, in which the men denied they were Russian intelligence agents and rejected any knowledge of the toxic substance or assassination attempt, instead claiming they were in Salisbury to see the cathedral.

Ms May's spokesman said: “The lies and blatant fabrications in this interview given to a Russian state-sponsored TV station are an insult to the public’s intelligence and more importantly they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack.

"Sadly it's what we've come to expect."

Investigators released images of the two suspects, who have been charge with attempted murder, saying they arrived in Britain on genuine Russian passports in the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Police said the pair travelled to Salisbury from on 3 March to carry out reconnaissance, then returned to launch the attack the following day and flew back to Moscow hours later. Novichok traces were found in their London hotel room.

'Nothing criminal' about UK Skripal suspects says Putin

Ms May's spokesman went on: "An illegal chemical weapon has been used on the streets of this country, we have seen four people left seriously ill in hospital and an innocent woman has died. Russia has responded with contempt.

“The police have set out very clearly the evidence against these two men, they are wanted men and we are taking all steps to make sure they are apprehended and brought to justice in the UK if they ever again step outside of Russia.”

But the men characterised themselves as tourists and claimed they travelled to Salisbury two days in a row merely for sightseeing. They failed to explain why they arrived in Britain using business visas.

Petrov and Borishov apparently decided the capital's sights were not worthy of a visit during what would have been an extremely short holiday.

The Metropolitan Police last week released images of the two men, announcing that they had been charged with the poisoning and made subject to European Arrest Warrants and Interpol red notices. The government has said it believes the operation was approved at “a senior level of the Russian state”.

The bearded Mr Boshirov attempted to answer why the two men had chosen to visit Salisbury. Friends had suggested visiting this "wonderful town," he said. It had an “internationally-famous” cathedral, known “for its 123m spire”.

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson on Novichok and 'an increasingly aggressive Russia'

"And its clock, which is one of the first ever created and is still working," he added.

The other man, Mr Petrov, said the two had made two consecutive trips to Salisbury due to bad weather on the first day. The temperature of 2C below zero on that day would not appear to represent extreme weather conditions for two men used to Russian winter.

But, in their version, the snow and slush had got in the way of a visit to Stonehenge and Old Sarum: “We got wet, took the nearest train and came back [to London].”

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