The Latest: UK repeats assertion that Russia is lying

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the nerve agent poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

The British government has repeated its assertion that Russian authorities were lying about the poisoning of a Russian former spy in the English city of Salisbury.

Britain last week charged two Russians in absentia, alleging they were agents of Russia’s military intelligence agency who were dispatched to Salisbury to poison former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok on March 4.

“The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service – the GRU – who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country,” officials said in a statement Thursday.

“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March. Today – just as we have seen throughout – they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”

The two suspects appeared on Russian television on Thursday for the first time. They denied their involvement in the attack, saying their appearance in Salisbury in March was merely a coincidence and that they were there merely as tourists.

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2 p.m.

The two Russian men charged in Britain with poisoning a former Russian spy with a deadly nerve agent have denied their involvement in the attack, saying that their appearance in the English city of Salisbury was merely an “incredible, fatal coincidence.”

Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov made their first public appearance in an interview with the Kremlin-funded RT channel Thursday.

They said they visited Salisbury to see its famous cathedral. Both men on Thursday denied that they are GRU agents or that they were in possession of the Soviet-made Novichok nerve agent.

Britain last week charged Boshirov and Petrov in absentia, alleging they were agents of Russia’s military intelligence agency known as the GRU who were dispatched to Salisbury to poison former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok.

“The whole situation is an incredible, fatal coincidence, and that’s that,” Petrov said. “What is our fault?”

They claimed they did not know who Skripal was and they did not know where he lived.

The two men, who appeared to be around 40, said they worked in the nutrient supplements business. They denied that they carried a bottle of women’s perfume where British authorities found traces of Novichok.

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1:20 p.m.

The two Russian men who have been charged in Britain with poisoning a former Russian spy have appeared on Russian television saying they visited the suspected crime scene as tourists.

Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov on Thursday made their first public appearance in an interview with the Kremlin-funded RT channel.

Boshirov and Petrov said they visited the southern English city of Salisbury in March, calling it a “wonderful town” and saying they wanted to see the famous Salisbury Cathedral.

Britain said Boshirov and Petrov are military intelligence agents who were dispatched to Salisbury to poison former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Britain released CCTV footage and photographs showing the two men walking in Skripal’s neighborhood.

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