The Russian government made an ambitious attempt this week to convince the public that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the two men suspected of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with the nerve agent Novichok earlier this year, are gay.
Scotland Yard released photos of Petrov and Boshirov last week: ‘On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin told reporters that Russian officials had identified the two men and that they were “civilians”. The president also said they should come forward to tell their side of the story. The resulting interview left skeptical Kremlin-watchers wondering whether the suspects’ paper-thin alibi was a show of defiance by Moscow, a slapdash job by Russian intelligence, or a version of events aimed at a domestic audience.’
In the interview, broadcast on Kremlin-backed RT, Margarita Simonyan questioned the two men about what they were doing in Salisbury, England at the time of the poisoning, lobbing loaded questions about why the two men would be traveling together and what they might be doing with a bottle of women’s perfume, the suspected delivery vessel for the poison.
In the interview, the men claimed they were in Salisbury to visit the cathedral and its famous spire.
When asked if they were carrying the bottle of Nina Ricci perfume, Boshirov replied: “Don’t you think that it’s kind of stupid for two straight men to be carrying perfume for ladies? When you go through customs they check all your belongings. So, if we had anything suspicious, they would definitely have questions.”
Simonyan replied: “Speaking of straight men, all footage features you two together. You spent time together, you lived together, you went for a walk together. What do you have in common that you spend so much time together?”
Boshirov protested the question: “Let’s not breach anyone’s privacy. We came to you for protection, but this is turning into some kind of an interrogation.”
Simonyan later asked the men, who said they worked in the health and fitness industry, about their business trips, and why they roomed together.
Replied Boshirov: “The hotel room that they show and say we stayed in has a bed for one person only. Meanwhile, right next to it there are double and triple rooms. And it is perfectly normal for tourists to stay together in a double room. It saves money and it’s practical. It’s more gun that way and it’s also easier. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this.”
Answered Simonyan: “There is no need to make any excuses here. Frankly, the world couldn’t care less about that.”
Writes the Washington Post: “The intrusive questions about their sexuality raised speculation that the host was trying to deflect attention from suspected poisoning and instead focus viewers’ attention on how exactly the two men know each other. Observers warned against seeing the inquiry as anything more than a distraction mechanism.”
The evening the interview aired, Russian state news channel Rossia 24 aired a segment on the tolerant nature of Salisbury, England, depicting it as a gay-friendly destination: ‘”This is how they ‘unwind’ in Salisbury,” the presenter said, using the exact phrase Petrov used to describe the aim of the men’s trip.’
“This is how they unwind in Salisbury,” the presenter says, using the exact phrase Petrov used to describe the aim of the men’s trip. The aim here seems pretty clear. https://t.co/p52f2mQFL4
— Matthew Luxmoore (@mjluxmoore) September 14, 2018
Simonyan later tweeted: “I don’t know if they’re gay or not. They’re fashionable guys, with cute beards and haircuts, tight pants, and biceps bulging under their sweaters. They didn’t hit on me, but I’m past their target age.”
Ребята, я не знаю, геи они или не геи. Модненькие такие, насколько я могу судить – с бородками, стрижечками, узкими брючками, свитерок обтягивает нехилые бицепсы.
Ко мне не приставали. Впрочем, я уже вышла из приставабельного возраста.
— Маргарита Симоньян (@M_Simonyan) September 13, 2018