Two Russians have appeared on state television, saying they had been wrongly accused by Britain of trying to assassinate a former Russian spy and his daughter in England and who had visited Salisbury in March for tourism.
British prosecutors last week identified two Russians they said operated under alias, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, whom they accused of trying to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a nervous agent of military rank in England.
The two men who appeared on the RT television station financed by the state of Russia had some physical similarities to the men shown in the images of the British police.
"Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful city," said one of the men about the English city of Salisbury in a short video of the interview that RT played.
They said that they had possibly approached Sergei Skripal's house by accident, but they did not know where he was located. They had stayed less than an hour in Salisbury, they said, due to bad weather.
"Well, we arrived on March 2, then we went to the train station to see the schedule, we arrived in Salisbury on March 3 and we tried to walk through the city, but we only lasted half an hour because it was covered in snow.
"Of course, we went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we could not do it because there was muddy mud everywhere, the city was covered in this mud, we got wet, took the nearest train and came back (to London). "
Two men denied that they were military intelligence officers and said they felt they deserved an apology from the real perpetrators of the poisoning, if they ever found them.
Skripal – a former Russian military intelligence colonel who betrayed dozens of MI6 agents – and his daughter were found unconscious in a bank in the English city of Salisbury in March. They spent weeks in the hospital before being discharged.
The two men said that they did not work for GRU, they were ordinary businessmen and victims of what they called "a fantastic coincidence".
The duo came a day after President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had located Petrov and Boshirov, but that there was nothing special or criminal about them. He expressed the hope that they present themselves and speak in public.
The issue made headlines in July when a woman near Salisbury, Dawn Sturgess, died and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill after Rowley found a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle containing nerve agent Novichok and took it home. .