Novichok hitmen insist they had nothing to do with Skripals' poisoning and were only visiting Salisbury as tourists

The Russian assassins accused by Britain of being sent to poison the Skripals with novichok broke their silence today and said they were just tourists in Salisbury admiring its cathedral after failing to get to Stonehenge.

The men, who used the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov to travel to the UK allegedly smuggling nerve agent in a James Bond-inspired perfume bottle, have spoken to state-funded TV station RT.

Explaining why they have come forward Boshirov said: 'When your life is turned upside down, you don't know what to do and where to go. We're afraid of going out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones'.
Alexander Petrov, right in CCTV footage, and Ruslan Boshirov, left, were named by British authorities as the suspects but insisted they are victims of a smear and were merely on holiday
The men today described themselves as 'decent lads' working in the sports nutrition business and said they were in Wiltshire to visit Stonehenge but couldn't get there because of bad weather.

Instead they went to the 'extraordinary town' of Salisbury to see its cathedral and 'famous spire' after a recommendation from a friend - not to smear nerve agent on Sergei Skripal's front door.

But Boshirov also admitted they may have stumbled upon the former spy's suburban home - half an hour's walk from the station and away from the city centre - but only by accident.

He said: 'Maybe we did [approach] Skripal's house, but we don't know where it was located'.

Boshirov denied ever hearing the name Skripal, saying : "I didn't know, I haven't heard - until this situation, until this nightmare with us started, I haven't heard this last name (Skripal), I knew nothing about them

“We came here to you for protection. But it becomes some sort of interrogation - we are starting to go deep. We are asking for your protection."
They were accused of the Novichok attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, right, and his daughter Yulia, left
RT editor Margarita Simonyan, who interviewed them last night, asked the two men whether they had Novichok or any poison with them, the emphatically said no.

Boshirov said: 'Is it silly for decent lads 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'.

Britain insists the men were sent by the Russia state, who handed them 'perfect' aliases and ID documents used to secure UK visa.

Traces of novichok were also found in their budget hotel room in east London, where they stayed during their short trip to the UK in March.

But the men say that they are the victims of a smear campaign and were holidaymakers.

Petrov, who only a week ago said he knew nothing about Salisbury and had been in Siberia, told RT: '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 but we couldn't do it because there was muddy slush everywhere. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back [to London]'.
The two spies were pictured in Salisbury the day before the attack, when they carried out a reconnaissance trip
Boshirov added: We spent no more than an hour in Salisbury, mainly because of the lags between trains'.

Detectives believe the two suspects, thought to be aged around 40, travelled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov are not their real names.

Officers formally linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury where Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.

A police officer who visited the home of the Skripals shortly after the attack, Nick Bailey, was also left critically ill from exposure to the substance.

Yesterday the Russian President claimed they were civilians not GRU military spies - despite Britain's evidence the men were sent by the Russian state to kill former spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia.

Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Mr Putin said: 'We have checked what kind of people they are. We know who they are, we have found them. There is nothing criminal in it'. 

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