The position expressed by official Moscow and Russian pro-Kremlin media as if two Russian citizens, identified by Britain as suspects in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, former Russian GRU officer, and his daughter, Yulia, are actually innocent was echoed by Georgian-language media outlets.
Sputnik-Georgia: “Russian citizens, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who are the Skripal case suspects, denied having any poisonous substances in Great Britain. They spoke about it in the interviews with RT and Sputnik” (September 13).
Sakinform: “The Russian citizens categorically deny their involvement in the Salisbury incident and express hope that the British side will find real perpetrators” (September 14).
Davit Akubardia, Spektri: “Quite recently, Russia Today aired the story about those two guys… This poor Theresa May [British PM] does not feel okay; two guys were shown, allegedly GRU agents. They appeared to be businessmen traveling as tourists and the interview with those allegedly GRU agents was aired.”
British investigation unveiled new details on the poisoning of Skripals, saying that the two suspects were Russian citizens. The two men identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov arrived in London on March 2; over the course of two days, they traveled from London to Salisbury, where the Skripals were found poisoned. Their passports show links to the Russian Defense Ministry. Russian media tries to portray the suspects as civilians and tourists. The suspects’ claims in the interview with RT that they were businessmen and arrived in Salisbury as tourists do not coincide with investigative reports of Bellingcat, The Insider and British investigation team that arouses reasonable doubts about the reasons of the two men’s trip and their links to the Russian Defense Ministry.
- British investigation has unveiled the facts about the visit of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov to Great Britain. According to the report, the two men arrived at Gatwick Airport on Friday, March 2. Then they travelled to London by train and arrived at the City Stay Hotel, where police found traces of Novichok. Petrov and Boshirov arrived in Salisbury twice, on Saturday and Sunday; they spent several hours there and returned back to London. On March 4, they again arrived in Salisbury. The two men were captured on CCTV near the home of Skripals.
- The suspects had authentic passports issued to Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov in 2016. The only strange thing is that the passports were issued at nearly the same time, as they are separated by only 3 digits (1294 and 1297).
Bellingcat and The Insider conducted investigation into the case and released a relevant report on September 14.
- According to the documents included in the report, Alexander Petrov works for the Federal Migration Service. The same documents contain a notice “not to disclose information.” A standard civilian passport does not contain any such notice.
- The file with the notice “not to disclose information” has an assigned number 195-79-66. Patrick Reevell of ABC News and Oliver Carroll of The Independent said, the passport file of one of the suspects contains a telephone number that appears to belong to Russia’s Defense Ministry. They called the number using a Moscow prefix and the person who answered said they had reached a Defense Ministry number.
On September 5, British Prime Minister Theresa May made an official statement on the results of investigation into the Skripal case, saying that the two Russian nationals named and charged over the Novichok poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury have been identified as officers from Russia’s military intelligence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ruled out any links of Russia or the suspects to the Skripal case.
Vladimir Putin: “We obviously looked at who these people are. We found them. Of course, they are civilians… They will appear soon, I hope, and tell you everything themselves. It will be better for everyone.”
A day later, on September 13, the suspects were interviewed by RT, where they claimed that “our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town [Salisbury].”
Russian media messages on the issue had been changed for several times.
|Suspects version on RT||Real facts|
|The two men claimed in the interview that they travelled to Salisbury upon recommendations of their friends to enjoy the beauty of English gothic architecture.||They made their initial booking and checked in online at 20:00 GMT (22:00 Moscow time) on 1 March 2018, the night before their short trip to London and Salisbury. The two suspects flew back to Moscow on 4 March 2018.|
|The two men claimed that they travelled from Moscow to see Salisbury’s Cathedral. Walking in the city, they might probably approach Skripals’ home, but they did not know where it was.||Salisbury’s Cathedral is only a 15 minute walk from the railway station, north-west. But the suspects moved in the opposition direction, the south, towards the Skripals neighborhood. CCTV cameras captured them near a filling station that is a minute walk from Skripals’ home.|
|The two mean cited bad, muddy slush and snowy weather as the reason behind their brief trip to Salisbury.||Temperature reached 5 degrees in Salisbury on Saturday. On March 4, there was almost no snow there that is also seen on CCTV images.|
|The men said they spent less than an hour in Salisbury, deciding against seeing Stonehenge, because of bad weather.||The weather in Salisbury was much better on Sunday and the tourist site was open for visitors.|
|The suspects said that they were businessmen in the fitness industry, selling supplements and advising on nutrition.||Search of their names in social networks and Internet failed to associate them with this industry.|
According to the article released by Newsland on September 9, Russian nationals featuring on the photo released by the British intelligence were British actors.
- Later the same images were declared as manipulative. Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Maria Zakharova said that the photos were doctored and timestamp was changed.
- The subsequent messages confirm that Russian nationals were featuring on the images, but they arrived in Great Britain as tourists.