Two Russians accused of a nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom have admitted they visited the city where the assault took place, but say the objective of their brief trip was to visit its historic cathedral and not to poison a former double agent who happened to live there.
They denied trying to kill Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4, in an attack London believes was sanctioned by the Kremlin.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said at the weekend that the pair are likely to stay in Russian Federation forever as they will be caught the moment they set foot outside.
Asked what could persuade London of the pair's innocence, he responded: "I can't see anything which could really change the British government's attitude and its conviction that these two men were perpetrators, that they were the ones who brought Novichok into the country".
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT's editor-in-chief they had nothing to do with the Skripals' poisoning. They had stayed less than hour in Salisbury, they said, because of bad weather.
He tweeted that he was "delighted" the men were able to visit Salisbury's "world-class attractions", but said it was "very odd to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage". Boshirov explained that the sights in the town include "the famous Salisbury Cathedral", which he said is "famous for its 123 meter spire". She said they were the "real" Petrov and Boshirov as far as she was able to check. "But very odd to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage", tweeted John Glen, the Member of Parliament for Salisbury who is also a government minister.
The two men who appeared on Russia's state-funded RT television station had some physical similarities to the men shown in British police images.
The men raised eyebrows when they said they had been to the cathedral city twice in two days because heavy snow forced them to turn back on their first visit.
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. You spent time together, you lived together, you went for a walk together.
We want to hear from you.
In a translation from Russian, the broadcaster quoted Petrov as saying: 'Well, we came there on March 2, then went to a railway station to see the timetable.
Police also debunked another theory, this time after Boshirov suggested CCTV photos of them walking through Gatwick arrivals had been faked. A Russian foreign ministry official has previously said this was proof that Scotland Yard had doctored evidence. At the airport, we always go down one corridor.
"When your life is turned upside down in just one moment, in just one day it changed our lives", he said. "So how did this happen?"
Their interviewer did not ask them to account for Novichok traces which British police said were found in their hotel room. "Why would a man have perfume for women in his luggage?" He laughed off as "silly" the idea that they would have carried a women's perfume bottle. "We didn't have it".
Britain said the attack was nearly certainly approved "at a senior level of the Russian state", an allegation that Moscow has vehemently denied. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May rallied support from allies for coordinated expulsions of more than 150 Russian diplomats, prompting tit-for-tat retaliation from Moscow.
RT said the men sounded distressed and were sweating as they spoke.
The duo, who appeared acutely ill at ease, identified themselves as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the names British prosecutors said were used by the poisoners.