The Strange Russian Alibi 1067

Like many, my first thought at the interview of Boshirov and Petrov – which apparently are indeed their names – is that they were very unconvincing. The interview itself seemed to be set up around a cramped table with a poor camera and lighting, and the interviewer seemed pretty hopeless at asking probing questions that would shed any real light.

I had in fact decided that their story was highly improbable, until I started seeing the storm of twitter posting, much of it from mainstream media journalists, which stated that individual things were impossible which were, in fact, not impossible at all.

The first and most obvious regards the weather on 3 and 4 March. It is in fact absolutely true that, if the two had gone down to Salisbury on 3 March with the intention of going to Stonehenge, they would have been unable to get there because of the snow. It is therefore perfectly possible that they went back the next day to try again; and public transport out of Salisbury was still severely disrupted, and many roads closed, on 4 March. Proof of this is not at all difficult to find.

This image is from the Salisbury Journal’s liveblog on 4 March.

Those mocking the idea that the pair were blocked by snow from visiting Stonehenge have pointed to the CCTV footage of central Salisbury not showing snow on the afternoon of 4 March. Well, that is central Salisbury, it had of course been salted and cleared. Outside there were drifts.

So that part of their story in fact turns out not to be implausible as social media is making out; in fact it fits precisely with the actual facts.

The second part of their story that has brought ridicule is the notion that two Russians would fly to the UK for the weekend and try to visit Salisbury. This ridicule has been very strange to me. Weekend breaks – arrive on Friday and return on Sunday – are a standard part of the holiday industry. Why is it apparently unthinkable that Russians fly on weekend breaks as well as British people?

Even more strange is the idea that it is wildly improbable for Russian visitors to wish to visit Salisbury cathedral and Stonehenge. Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most breathtaking achievements of Norman architecture, one of the great cathedrals of Europe. It attracts a great many foreign visitors. Stonehenge is world famous and a world heritage site. I went on holiday this year and visited Wurzburg to see the Bishop’s Palace, and then the winery cooperative at Sommerach. Because somebody does not choose to spend their leisure time on a beach in Benidorm does not make them a killer. Lots of people go to Salisbury Cathedral.

There seems to be a racist motif here – Russians cannot possibly have intellectual or historical interests, or afford weekend breaks.

The final meme which has worried me is “if they went to see the cathedral, why did they visit the Skripal house?” Well, no evidence at all has been presented that they visited the Skripal house. They were captured on CCTV walking past a petrol station 500 yards away – that is the closest they have been placed to the Skripal house.

The greater mystery about these two is, if they did visit the Skripal House and paint Novichok on the doorknob, why did they afterwards walk straight past the railway station again and head into Salisbury city centre, where they were caught window shopping in a coin and souvenir shop with apparently not a care in the world, before eventually returning to the train station? It seems a very strange attitude to a getaway after an attempted murder. In truth their demeanour throughout the photographs is consistent with their tourism story.

The Russians have so far presented this pair in a very unconvincing light. But on investigation, the elements of their story which are claimed to be wildly improbable are not inconsistent with the facts.

There remains the much larger question of the timing.

The Metropolitan Police state that Boshirov and Petrov did not arrive in Salisbury until 11.48 on the day of the poisoning. That means that they could not have applied a nerve agent to the Skripals’ doorknob before noon at the earliest. But there has never been any indication that the Skripals returned to their home after noon on Sunday 4 March. If they did so, they and/or their car somehow avoided all CCTV cameras. Remember they were caught by three CCTV cameras on leaving, and Borishov and Petrov were caught frequently on CCTV on arriving.

The Skripals were next seen on CCTV at 13.30, driving down Devizes road. After that their movements were clearly witnessed or recorded until their admission to hospital.

So even if the Skripals made an “invisible” trip home before being seen on Devizes Road, that means the very latest they could have touched the doorknob is 13.15. The longest possible gap between the novichok being placed on the doorknob and the Skripals touching it would have been one hour and 15 minutes. Do you recall all those “experts” leaping in to tell us that the “ten times deadlier than VX” nerve agent was not fatal because it had degraded overnight on the doorknob? Well that cannot be true. The time between application and contact was between a minute and (at most) just over an hour on this new timeline.

In general it is worth observing that the Skripals, and poor Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, all managed to achieve almost complete CCTV invisibility in their widespread movements around Salisbury at the key times, while in contrast “Petrov and Boshirov” managed to be frequently caught in high quality all the time during their brief visit.

This is especially remarkable in the case of the Skripals’ location around noon on 4 March. The government can only maintain that they returned home at this time, as they insist they got the nerve agent from the doorknob. But why was their car so frequently caught on CCTV leaving, but not at all returning? It appears very much more probable that they came into contact with the nerve agent somewhere else, while they were out.

I shall write a further post on these timing questions shortly.

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1,067 thoughts on “The Strange Russian Alibi

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  • Sir Keef

    At the risk of being repetitious (I posted this comment on another of CM’s Skripal related articles) I just wanted to share a thought: If MI6 had wanted to frame the Russians for the a nerve agent attack on the Skripals (an event which would have certainly been months in the planning) they may have just needed to sit and wait, monitoring flights from Russia (as they would routinely do), keeping potential patsies under surveillance and picking their moment to pounce. The slightly erratic and inexplicable movements of the two hapless Russian tourists who made their way to Salisbury on that day would have been a perfect fit for the rap, and they may have unwittingly been victims of a plot that was effectively built around them. Whilst seemingly convoluted and far fetched, this theory is far from impossible to conceive, but goes some way towards accounting for some of the otherwise mysterious aspects of this case.

    For example, this scenario might account for the apparently genuine incredulity of the two subjects at being thrust into the media spotlight, the palpably feeble narrative that they just happened to be in Salisbury by sheer coincidence when the attacks were taking place, (a weakness in their story which the UK Government and media have, perhaps cynically, milked for all its worth), their seemingly inexplicable reliance on public transport, the way they made no efforts to avoid surveillance cameras, in fact their general demeanor throughout, being that of a pair of normal tourists on a sightseeing trip (which is what they were) and not remotely consistent with the praxis of a pair of highly trained professional killers – I could go on…

    Of course I might just be losing the plot myself, but the way this thing is playing out, anything seems possible…

    • flatulence'

      Why wait for such a miracle of coincidence, when they could set them up with a phoney meeting with a client. All in ideal timing for their moves in Syria.

      • Sir Keef

        Yes but if the trip was set up by someone else they (R&B) surely would have divulged that information to the press. It may be that there was some way that they were influenced into taking the trip when they did but the decision had to look as though it was theirs. Of course this is all highly speculative, but I think it is a definite possibility that the British security services were just waiting for the right Russian visitor to pin something on. If there is a steady flow of tourists to Salisbury and Stonehenge, it would only be a matter of time before the right candidate came along, and then the operation could have been launched to coincide with that visit. As I said, it does help to provide an explanation for a lot of the other more baffling aspects of this bizarre case.

          • Borncynical

            You’re not alone! I found myself writing R&B as well a couple of times but realised just in time before posting it.

        • flatulence'

          Yeah I get you, but they would not know that they were heading yards away from the Skripal’s turn off or neighbouring street until minutes before hand, not to mention it being an unlikely detour for any sightseers, so they would have to have a team ready to act at all the times, and even then, they would have to be sure they would not be given an alibi at the last second by meeting a friend or relative or getting publicly hammered at the pub and on camera the whole time.

          The reason Rhythm and Blues, (lets call them the Blues Brothers) didn’t disclose this info could be because they are playing this as a holiday, not a business trip, and they may have shady dealings they do not want out in the open. They may not be brightest bless ’em. They may even be working for someone else who would have them or their families killed if the real nature of their dealings were disclosed. Rock and a hard place. Who knows. It’s conjecture, but all our theories are still more reasonable than the conspiracy theory we are being fed by the press et al.

        • Borncynical

          I have put forward your scenario previously on this thread. I wondered what B&P might have said on their visa application, which would presumably have been processed several weeks before they travelled. If security services had some sort of ‘sting’ in mind they could check applications mentioning a visit to Salisbury over a specified period, select an appropriate applicant or applicants and arrange the Skripal ‘incident’ to coincide with the intended Salisbury visit.

          This would have to suggest as well that the Skripals were in on it as their movements that weekend would be crucial to make it all work. It could even be that Skripal was behind them coming over through various underground contacts, although B&P might never have known his name so they wouldn’t even be aware restrospectively that he was behind it; if this was the case it wouldn’t even matter if they mentioned Salisbury on their visa applications because they were already selected to fit the profile.

          If the reason they came over was illegal then that would explain their reticence to talk about it so in a sense they’ve effectively been blackmailed into silence but didn’t understand what they were getting themselves into. Precise timings wouldn’t be an issue because – as we have seen – the intelligence services would only have to select a few CCTV images to prove that the ‘culprits’ were in Salisbury that weekend and pin the blame on them with nothing more. The police would probably have been monitoring their movements from the moment they arrived at Gatwick. After ‘the incident’ the weeks spent analysing CCTV images would have been devoted entirely to looking for and sifting through appropriately incriminating images of B&P who were already earmarked as the culprits. Had B&P not gone to Salisbury, the police could simply have said that they had been unable to identify anyone on CCTV whilst still throwing out a few red herrings about ‘suspicious’ vehicles that they hadn’t been able to identify. Even in the absence of a direct Salisbury link they might even have somehow identified them through a contrived novichok incident at the hotel they stayed at in London.

          For professional security and intelligence services all this would be a relatively simple scenario to enact.

          • Borncynical

            My post at 21.17
            Just to clarify my penultimate sentence: I should have written “Even in the absence of a direct Salisbury link they might even have purportedly ‘identified’ them through a contrived ‘novichok’ incident at the hotel they stayed at in London.

          • Borncynical

            Another thought – perhaps Yulia’s ‘mysterious’ boyfriend/fiancé could be the ‘go-between’ responsible for getting B&P over to Salisbury. And Yulia may have come over to be part of the ‘sting’ (with her father a willing participant for whatever reason), knowing that P&B were on their way to be set up.
            I haven’t any suggestion for Dawn and Charlie’s apparent involvement in all this but I do think they were in someway connected to the Skripals and the Skripal ‘poisoning’ incident. I certainly do not believe that P&B were in any way responsible for their fate.


          • Sir Keef

            Agreed – I don’t know whether the Skripals would necessarily have known anything about it though – it would have been a very simple thing to dose them with the substance that incapacitated them, and this could have been done with relatively little forward planning. If the intelligence services knew they were heading for Salisbury, the only variable would have been that the Skripals would have needed to stay in town when the two ‘suspects’ were there. As I said before, this is all conjecture and best guessing, but the notion that the incident was fitted around these two subjects, who may have been in Salisbury on that day for perfectly innocent reasons and (crucially) whose intention to travel there was already known by the real perpetrators, does help to make sense of many of the otherwise inexplicable parts of the narrative.

          • Borncynical

            Sir Keef (09.32)

            Thanks for your comments.

            On the basis of the scant undisputable evidence we have on this event from beginning to end, whatever we say has to be conjecture, as you say. My one reason for possibly drawing the Skripals in as ‘willing partners’ is because (a) it would make the circumstances much easier to explain and (b) I personally (conjecture of course!) am uncomfortable at the moment with what we do or don’t know about the couple on the bench and whether they were actually the Skripals; especially in the absence of any released CCTV footage or ‘stills’ putting them in that immediate area before the ‘incident’. For interest’s sake, you might like to see this hyperlink about the CCTV couple and Charlie and Dawn. Hopefully it will open for you – I provided it previously for @Doodlebug, for his own research on this, but he was unable to open it.

            The question asking why this whole, arguably fake, scenario might have been set up is the $64,000 question! I know a number of possible explanations have been put forward by fellow theorists (and you may have your own ideas) but we can, I think, safely argue that – whatever the reasons – it would have had to be done with MI6 (and possibly CIA) involvement. I am not knowledgeable enough myself to put forward any views on this so I am limiting myself to simply scrutinising the events of the weekend in question.

          • Borncynical

            Further to my post at 21.17, and just for the record, @Doodlebug was able to open the link to the website but no images appeared. As I say, hopefully others trying it may have more luck.

          • Borncynical

            I’m obviously still half asleep this morning and wasting everyone’s time by taking up space with unnecessary posts as a result! I must get some coffee. Anyway my post at 10.47 should have referred to my post at 10.24.

  • Elle

    As Russian is my native tongue, I have been trying to catch any possible nuances in the suspects’ interview that might have hot lost in translation.
    If I may, I’ll give my impression on the guys and the way they spoke. Both are not great talkers, to be honest. They definitely sound like Brice speaking, no doubt as they don’t have ant accent, but their vocabulary is poor. The grammatical structure of their sentences is poor as well. They do not finish one sentence before starting a new one. Do they look like people with the Uni educational background? Well, no.
    From what they said, it was difficult to figure out 1 thing: whey they spent fo much time on talking about the adverse weather conditions and closed roads. Whether they failed to explain what that meant for their trip to Salisbury on 4 March or it was sencored (a possibility) but after listening to the interview for a dozen of times, after scrutinising the weather news from Salisbury at the time, I think I am able to offer my own hypothesis of events on 4 March.

      • Borncynical


        I am grateful for your insight as a native Russian speaker. It is particularly useful to see what you say about their likely social/educational background. To me they seem the kind of men who would be tempted by promises of a good ‘salary’ and the opportunity to travel at no cost to themselves, in return for delivering something or collecting something (if you understand what I mean!) and following basic instructions. I would not consider them suitably competent people to undertake a professional assassination attempt using “one of the deadliest nerve agents known”.

        I shall try to explain simply the implications of the discussions in the interview about the weather. The incident with the poisoning of the Skripals took place on Sunday 4 March. Apart from CCTV showing Boshirov and Petrov in Salisbury on 3 March and 4 March there is no evidence that has been released to the public linking them to the ‘attack’ on the Skripals. But they have still been named by the UK Government as the perpetrators.

        In the interview Boshirov and Petrov were asked to explain what they did over that weekend when they visited Salisbury. They explained that their original plan was to go from London to Salisbury only on the Saturday to visit the Cathedral, Old Sarum (an old Roman settlement, I think) and Stonehenge. But they explained that the weather was so bad when they arrived in Salisbury they couldn’t get to visit these tourist sites so they only stayed a short while, got themselves a coffee and returned to London. They decided to return to Salisbury the following day (Sunday) to visit the Cathedral and Old Sarum ( presumably from what they said, they had decided not to bother with a visit to Stonehenge). They claim to have visited the Cathedral (it wasn’t clear whether they managed to get to Old Sarum or tried to get there) and then returned to London early in the afternoon because sleet started to fall. They mention the weather a lot because they were asked to explain why they couldn’t do what they wanted to do on the Saturday and had to return to Salisbury on the Sunday.

        Overall, what they say with regards to the weather and travel disruption does appear valid. But there are people in the UK who are sceptical about their brief weekend visit to the UK to have fun in London and fit in a visit to Salisbury, so the suspicion is that they may have been doing something illegal which required them to go to Salisbury on both the Saturday and the Sunday. Of course many people think that the information about them supports the contention that they must have had something to do with the (purported) attack on the Skripals. My view, given in my earlier posts, is that they may have been following instructions to go to Salisbury on some ‘illegal’ errand but were actually simply being set up to be identified as the ‘nerve agent attackers’. I can’t guess whether they might have been under instruction to go there on both days or whether when they got there on the Saturday they might have received an instruction to return the following day. They don’t want to say too much because they were possibly doing something illegal under Russian law, their livelihoods could be affected and, most significantly, they might have been told that if they reveal anything they are not likely to live to an old age!

        Hope this is of help.

        • Elle

          Thank you for your insight. From what they said it is possible to assume that they did visit Old Sarum. Because when Margarita asked them about the 4th of March, Petrov said “The original plan was to see Old Sarum and the Cathedral”. When asked if they managed to do that, Petrov said, “Yes”.
          From the train station they headed left in the opposite direction from the Cathedral but in fact towards Old Sarum.
          Google maps show a few walking routes from the train station to Old Sarum, the fastest being turning right from Fisherston Rd on the St Paul’s roundabout to A36, the other being heading straight on that roundabout to A360 and the last one – first left onto Wilton Road, on which there is the Shell garage where they were pictured.
          Boshirov went into a lengthy explanation about most rouds being closed on their visit. And his words are confirmed by from that date stating that A360 was closed till afternoon, not sure about the A36 though.
          So if we assume that that are innocent people whatsoever heading to Old Sarum, the chances are they were really heading there via the only accessible route that day which is Wilton Road. The route via Wilton Road to Old Sarum lies in a very dangerous proximity to the Skripal’s address which makes any supposition about their innocence extremely difficult to sustain. But on the other hand, the history has seen even stranger coincidences.

  • Suzanne Riney

    There is something seriously wrong with the whole thing. On the news reports, it was said, small drops
    of the nerve agent were found in the hotel, where the two Russians who were accused, had stayed. That hotel was not cornered off, like places in Sailsbury, I believe we are not being told the real truth from our government, which makes me suspicious of them

    • Borncynical


      I think you will find the majority of people who post comments on here, including me, would go along with your assessment. If you can spare the time (!), it is worth reading through past comments – as well, of course, as Craig Murray’s own commentaries on the various issues raised by the whole Skripal scenario. You will be reassured to see how many people would agree that we are being kept in the dark and lied to by the Government.

    • Gunvald

      The big question need an answer : Who left the perfume in Amesbury, and of what reason ?
      Borshinov and Petrov did not visit Amesbury. So then, was the perfume accidently lost, og placed there with some intention. If so, by who?
      Finding traces of Novichok at the room the Russians lived in for three days, visited by other people also, sounds weird. If the substance they found had no harm to human health, then the chemical fingerprints identifying Novichok, must be revealed.
      Is it by occasion that Porton Down is situated midway between Salisbury and Amesbury? And from where came Novichok? I tend to believe it is easier to smuggle out a small amount of Novichok from Porton Down, than to smuggle it into Britain from Moscow.

    • flatulence'

      And you may be right to be suspicious, and therefore naturally suspicious of anything they try to feed you.

      Welcome to the entrance to the rabbit hole Riney. Once you smell the bullshit, there’s no going back. So you’re already down the rabbit hole really. Try not to get too carried away though. It’s all bullshit, but you still gotta live. Just stay aware, and keep your mind open. Some here are loonies, like me, and some spout the government line. Possibly too much… The rest are well meaning, open minded, intelligent and friendly for the most part, even if their views, ideas, political persuasions are different. Welcome.

  • Andy

    The claim of UK government and releasing details of these two gentleman has been a very cruel unlawful action against the human rights. These two have the right to sue our government. They could be hurt due to irrisponsible revelation of their travels and private affairs. For example one of them has lost the girl that he admired through the facebook after the girl heard the news about him. She also though that she might get into trouble due to her connection, and who knows perhaps she is now in trouble as she leaves in an EU country. Their story cmpletely fits together.

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