By Chris York
An investigation by Bellingcat and The Russian Insider has revealed a number of anomalies that directly contradict Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov’s claims they were merely “tourists” who visited Salisbury to see the city’s famous cathedral in March of this year.
The biggest hole in the pair’s story is the fact no record of either men exists from before 2009 when passports under their names were issued, which the report says “suggests the two names were likely cover identities for operatives of one of the Russian security services”.
It has already been reported in Russian media that the passport numbers of the men are separated by only three digits (-1294 and -1297) meaning they were issued at almost exactly the same time.
Petrov and Boshirov also told Russian state-funded news channel RT they planned their trip to the “wonderful” city in Wiltshire after recommendations from friends.
This short, off-season international jaunt just happened to coincide precisely with the poisoning of former Russian spy, Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union.
But the passenger manifest of Aeroflot reveals the pair only booked their flights and checked in online the night before they travelled.
Petrov and Boshirov’s attempt to explain their presence in Salisbury has already been met with widespread scepticism, with the UK Government branding it “obfuscation and lies”.
They failed to fully explain why two men interested in the sights of Salisbury would take a walking detour into a residential area of the city which also happened to be in the vicinity of where the Skripal’s lived, on the very day he was poisoned.
I mean, who hasn’t made a flying visit from Moscow, just to visit Salisbury Cathedral?
— Adam Parsons (@AdamParsons1) September 13, 2018
“We went to see famous Salisbury Cathedral and we now give you facts about its height and clock which are in first paragraph of the Wikipedia page, and never mind that walking west down Fisherton Street takes you away from the cathedral which we definitely went to see.” #Skripal
— Guy Walters (@guywalters) September 13, 2018
But while most people seem to have accepted the UK Government’s accusations as being the most likely explanation for the actions of the two men, some are still clinging to the idea it is some sort of anti-Russia propaganda.
Former British ambassador, Craig Murray, and Professor Tim Hayward of the University of Edinburgh, have both suggested the men are in fact a homosexual couple who deal in bodybuilding supplements.
And it didn’t seem to you they might be either gay or engaged in dubious activities in the bodybuilding nutrition business, both of which were pretty major themes?
— Craig Murray (@CraigMurrayOrg) September 14, 2018
Russia might be laughing at us, thinks @eddiemair. Maybe. What might really attract a couple of nutritionists interested in bodybuilding supplements to a place where bodybuilding supplements are developed, and maybe could be available under the counter before testing? https://t.co/waPj9EipXy
— Tim Hayward (@Tim_Hayward_) September 14, 2018
This week it was also reported two Russians agents were arrested and expelled from the Netherlands earlier this year, suspected of trying to spy on the lab where samples of the poison used on Skripal were being tested,