Does what the Skripal suspects said add up?

Does what the Skripal suspects said add up?
By Chris Harris
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We assess four key claims made by the Russian men charged with poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal about their time in southern England.


The two Russian men charged with poisoning double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury have been having their say.

They spoke to Russia Today in an interview slammed by the British government as “an insult to the public's intelligence”.

But what did they say and is it plausible? Here we look at four key claims made about their time in southern England.

Claim #1: ‘We went to Salisbury for its cathedral’

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov do not deny the British claims that they travelled from London to Salisbury twice.

The pair first travelled there by train on Saturday, March 3. But they only stayed for 1hr 45mins — according to CCTV footage — because the city was hit by snow.

Petrov, in Thursday’s interview, said they went back on Sunday, March 4, the same date the Skripals were found slumped on a bench poisoned with Novichok.

“On the fourth [of March] we came back because everything melted in London, the weather was warm,” Petrov told Russia Today. “The sun was shining. We really wanted to visit Old Sarum and the cathedral.”

Yet despite their apparent desire to see Salisbury’s sights they spent just two hours in the city, according to British police.

They say the pair arrived at Salisbury railway station at 11.48am. Police released CCTV footage purporting to show them leaving at 1.50pm.

Metropolitan Police
Police say this shows the suspects on a reconnaissance mission to Salisbury on Saturday.Metropolitan Police

Claim #2: Salisbury Cathedral is ‘famous for its 123-metre spire’

Petrov, asked what the duo were doing in England, said their friends had long been encouraging them to visit the "wonderful town" of Salisbury.

Boshirov, following up, went onto describe the detailed credentials of the city’s landmark cathedral.

“This is a touristic city,” he said. “There's the famous Salisbury cathedral. It's famous not only in Europe, but in the whole world. It's famous for its 123-metre spire. It's famous for its clock, one of the first ever created in the world that's still working."

Some social media users were quick to point out that many of the facts cited are also in the first paragraphs of Salisbury Cathedral’s Wikipedia entry.

Claim #3: They went back early because of the snow

"We went to Salisbury on the 3rd [of March],” said Petrov. “We tried to walk around there, but as the whole city was covered in snow we lasted only 30 minutes, we were completely wet."

British police say their visit to the city on Saturday, March 3, was a reconnaissance mission for the real thing on Sunday.

But Petrov and Boshirov have claimed they were there on a sightseeing mission but the weather thwarted them.

CCTV footage released by police shows the pair arriving in the city around 2.25pm and leaving an hour and 45 minutes later.

The suspects’ claim there was snow appears true: there are tweets taken in Salisbury on March 3 that show widespread snow, while the local newspaper, the Salisbury Journal, has a long article about the weather mayhem.


Nevertheless, web users were quick to ask why snow would stop two Russians, given their country’s history of sub-zero conditions.

Claim #4: They don’t know where the Skripals’ house was

The pair were asked whether they had been in the vicinity of the Skripals’ house, which is where police claim the suspects sprayed the Novichok.

"Maybe we were next to it [the house] but we don't even know where it is," Petrov said.

“Do you know where Skripal’s house is?” asked Boshirov. “I have no idea. Maybe we passed by it, maybe not. I have not ever heard of this name. I did not know anything about them before this situation, before all of this nightmare started.”

But, where do CCTV images place them?


Police say they arrived at Salisbury railway station around 11.48am on Sunday, March 4.

But instead of heading in the direction of the cathedral, they went the other way and were captured 10 minutes later near a Shell petrol garage on Wilton Road. The garage is 300 metres, as the crow flies, from the Skripals’ house in Christie Miller Road.

Metropolitan Police
Police say this shows (left) the suspects arriving at Salisbury station at 11.48. They were spotted 10 minutes later (right) on Wilton Road, 300 metres as the crow flies from the Skripals' house.Metropolitan Police

They are spotted around an hour later on Fisherton Street/Bridge Street at 1.08pm walking towards the train station, which they left around 1.50pm, heading for London.

Metropolitan Police
Police say the suspects were later spotted (left) near the cathedral before leaving (right) Salisbury railway station two hours after they arrived.Metropolitan Police

So while they were seen close to the Skripals’ house they would also have had enough time to see the cathedral.

It is nevertheless odd to spent only two hours in a city that is one of the key reasons for a visit to England.

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