Skripal suspects interview: Key excerpts

Petrov and Boshirov at Salisbury station the day before the Skripals were poisoned

Petrov and Boshirov at Salisbury station the day before the Skripals were poisoned

Two men suspected of targeting the Skripals with novichok have denied being Russian agents or having anything to do with the poisoning. British officials say they know the real names of the pair.

United Kingdom authorities have pinned the poisoning on two Russian men they believe are intelligence officers, and charged them in their absence with conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and use of the nerve agent Novichok.

Then, days later, President Vladimir Putin vouched for them as just ordinary guys and anything but would-be hit men.

"Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town", Mr Petrov said.

The Salisbury Cathedral is only a 15-minute walk from the local train station, heading northwest. After a brief pause, he added that the town is known for its cathedral, which is "famous not only in Europe, but in the whole world".

"We are two guys in the fitness business, our burning desire was to see the famous spire of Salisbury Cathedral".

A government spokesman said: '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.

Russian Federation has repeatedly denied any involvement.

Yet despite their apparent desire to see Salisbury's sights they spent just two hours in the city, according to British police.

They confirmed they are the two men shown in CCTV pictures issued by the Metropolitan Police, saying they own the clothes they were pictured in and even bought their shoes in England.

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The two men's story, particularly their claim that they cut their visit short because of cold weather, and a light dusting of snow, was widely mocked by foreign correspondents in Moscow.

The men, who appeared to be about 40, claimed they did not know who Skripal was or where he lived.

The Member of Parliament for Salisbury, John Glen, said the interview made by the suspects to RT is "not credible" and "does not match intelligence we have on the individuals", Sky News reported.

An except of the full interview was shown on RT News on Thursday morning, and an additional transcript can be seen here.

Their second trip to Salisbury took nearly four hours on Sunday, and they stayed for about the same length of time.

Ruslan Boshirov, left, and Alexander Petrov speak with the Kremlin-funded RT channel in Moscow.

British investigators say the poison was transported in a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle and sprayed onto the handle of Skripal's door. Putin, speaking at an economic forum in Russia's Far East, described Petrov and Boshirov as regular citizens and definitely not "criminals".

"And finally on March 4 this year we had this outrageous event in Salisbury, Wiltshire, when two agents of the GRU were involved in the murder of Dawn Sturgess and attempted murder of others". They then chose to return the next day. The former Russian spy and his daughter were found collapsed on 4 March; the police officer fell ill after trying to help them.

The Skripal case has been likened by British politicians to the murder of Russian dissident ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in a London hotel in 2006.

But while most people seem to have accepted the UK Government's accusations as being the most likely explanation for the actions of the two men, some UK commentators are still clinging to the idea it is some sort of anti-Russia propaganda.

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