UPDATES WITH STATEMENT FROM BRITISH PRIME MINISTER'S SPOKESMAN
LONDON (AA) – The U.K. government is “clear” that Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, the two main suspects in the Skripal case, are Russian military service officers, a British Foreign Office spokesman said Thursday.
The statement came after Petrov and Boshirov, the two key suspects the U.K. calls of the Salisbury nerve agent attack, appeared on Russian state TV, Russia Today.
In an interview with RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, the men confirmed they were the people identified by the U.K. investigators but they were in Salisbury at the time of the incident as tourists.
“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,” the spokesman said.
"We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March," he added.
"Today — just as we have seen throughout — they have responded with obfuscation and lies."
Petrov and Boshirov also denied smuggling the nerve agent Novichok in a perfume bottle into the U.K., saying it would look suspicious for a man to carry a women's perfume in his luggage during the customs check.
Responding to the interview later Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said the suspects' comments were "an insult" and "deeply offensive".
"The lies and blatant fabrications in this interview given to a Russian state-sponsored TV station are an insult to the public's intelligence," he said.
"More importantly they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack," he added.
John Glen, Conservative MP for Salisbury and South Wiltshire, also reacted to the interview, saying what the duo said in the RT interview were “not credible.”
“Delighted that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov were able to see the world-class attractions that Salisbury has to offer. But very strange to come all this way for just two days while carrying Novichok in their luggage,” Glen said on Twitter.
“Salisbury welcomes tourists from around the world and is very much open for business. But the Petrov/Borishov statements are not credible and don't match the widely accepted intelligence we have on these individuals,” he added.
The two men appearing on the interview said they were in Salisbury to visit the city’s historic cathedral and Stonehenge.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last week said Petrov and Boshirov are wanted for conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and police officer Nick Bailey.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on March 4 in Salisbury. They were both since discharged from the hospital.
Police officer Nick Bailey, who was among the first to respond to the incident, also received treatment after being poisoned.
Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he had been serving a 13-year prison term for leaking information to the British intelligence.