Following a week of speculation and accusation surrounding the two main suspects in the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury, the pair has come forward in an attempt to clear their name.

Speaking to Russian state-backed TV channel Russia Today (RT), Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov said they visited the town of Salisbury as tourists upon the recommendation of friends. Mr Petrov said: “One of our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town.”

During the interview, which was prompted by Russian president Vladimir Putin after he said the pair should contact the press to “tell everything”, Mr Boshirov said that he and Petrov are “afraid to go out”. He continued: “we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones”.

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The story told by the pair on RT is quite a contrast to the UK government’s allegations. The UK alleges that Petrov and Boshirov travelled to London and then Salisbury, which they visited twice, to poison former KGB agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. It was then said that the men used a fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle to transport the powerful nerve agent Novichok and then poison the Skripals with.

Asked about this accusation, Mr Boshirov said: “For normal blokes, to be carrying women’s perfume with us, isn’t that silly? Even when going through customs, going wherever, all your things are inspected, any policeman during an inspection – well, they’d be asking the question: ‘Why is there women’s perfume in a man’s baggage?'”

In response to the interview, Downing Street has said it was “full of lies and fabrications” as well as being an “insult to the public’s intelligence”.