Just as Vladimir Putin predicted they would, two Russian men wanted in Britain for poisoning a former Russian spy with a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union appeared on Russian television on Thursday to profess their innocence.
Two men with physical similarities to British police images of the suspects appeared on Russian state television station RT on Thursday, denying they were military intelligence officers.
"Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town", one of the men said of the English town of Salisbury in a short clip of the interview played by RT. A Russian firm selling airline tickets is now advertising trips to Salisbury, saying the town's cathedral is a sight worth traveling all the way from Moscow to see.
A British government minister, who represents Salisbury, said on Twitter that the statements were not credible.
The Kremlin-backed station aired the interview a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russian Federation had identified the men sought by Britain and urged them to address the media. "We got wet, took the nearest train and came back to London". "Today - just as we have seen throughout - they have responded with obfuscation and lies".
Russian Federation has repeatedly denied any involvement. The men denied having any poison or the counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle that United Kingdom police say was used to transport the nerve agent.
They said they may have approached Skripal's house by chance but did not know where it was located.More news: Video Shows Harvey Weinstein Grope, Proposition His Rape Accuser
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United Kingdom prosecutors have said they have "sufficient evidence" to charge the pair but did not formally demand their extradition, as Russian Federation does not extradite its citizens.
RT editor Margarita Simonyan said the men contacted her themselves by calling her mobile number.
A Foreign Office spokesman said that the two men had been identified as the prime suspects and it is clear they are GRU officers who "used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapons on the streets of our country".
He added he was delighted that the Russians were able to see "the world class attractions Salisbury has to offer".
Britain last week charged Boshirov and Petrov in absentia, alleging they were agents of Russia's military intelligence agency known as the GRU who were dispatched to Salisbury to poison former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok. "Yes they are our real names". "We didn't have it", Mr Boshirov said.
Mr Skripal is a former GRU agent who secretly spied for Britain before being pardoned by the Kremlin and exchanged with among others - glamour agent Anna Chapman.
"When your life [is] turned upside down, you don't know what to do and where to go".
British prosecutors said last week they had "sufficient evidence" to charge the two Russian nationals in connection with the attack on March 4. They then went straight to the airport and flew home, hours after the Skripals were found unconscious on a bench.