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Petrov, Bashirov look suspicious to me

A week ago, I mentioned Petrov and Bashirov, two Russian nationals that were named as suspects in the Skripal poisoning case. I was mocking the British accusation but now I must say that the two Russian guys' defense looks even stranger and locally comical to me.

Read the transcript of an RT interview (The Telegraph)

90-second video excerpt from that Margarita Simonyan interview; for full interview, see the bottom
It's really the cathedral that made me laugh. Just to be sure, I do realize that none of the feelings I have may be considered terribly strong evidence. People have different interests. And most importantly, if these two men attempted to poison Skripal and/or his daughter, it doesn't mean that the Kremlin or any other Russian authority is involved.

On her Twitter account, the journalist Ms Simonyan said that the men looked nervous and they were sweating. I had the same feeling. Also, I had some very hard to describe feeling that they were trying to fake some gestures. However, it's totally plausible that they were nervous because they are really in a difficult situation now – even if they are innocent.

OK, so their story says: it's really them on the photographs, the names are their real names, they are regular Russian men, entrepreneurs in sports nutrition etc., they don't want to reveal too much about their privacy (but they clearly wanted the audiences to think that they're homosexual partners; but at one moment, they also indicate they are "two straight men" when they're asked about the perfume), they hadn't known the name of Skripal before the nightmare started, and they went to Britain as tourists.

They claim to have seen some places in London, Stonehenge (the U.K. must have pictures from all the places but they're deliberately not shown – it looks like a sensible complaint), and they also went to Salisbury which is famous not only in Europe but even in the whole world.

I realize my reaction may be childish but I couldn't resist to laugh at that point. Salisbury is famous in the whole world? We are told that they wanted to see Old Sarum, a place of the cathedral where you can only see some fields now, plus the famous Salisbury Cathedral which is 123 meters tall.

OK, it's pretty tall and a bit taller (and arguably prettier) than the St Bartholomew Cathedral, the so-called Pilsner Tower, which has 103 meters (there is a famous local folk song about the Pilsner Tower that surpasses the hills and I don't care whom my girlfriend dates LOL) and is tallest in Czechia-or-Slovakia. There are probably some Russian tourists in Salisbury which could make their statements look plausible but I still find the justifications a bit comical.

Even in the case of Pilsen, I think that almost no tourists are really visiting Pilsen to see the Pilsner Tower. And a cathedral that no longer exists? Are there really many Russian tourists who normally visit such places? Salisbury is a city of 40,000. It is close to a šithole. They admit to have visited Salisbury and the question why they did it looks rather important to me.

My impression about the church story is the following: They prepared for the question "why you went to Salisbury" so they opened a Wikipedia page about Salisbury and found that there's the church there, so they just said it was the most important thing about that place that made them arrive there (in two different days).

On the other hand, if Russian tourists routinely visit Salisbury every day, the Britons could have simply picked some random convenient Russian tourists who went to that town on that day – and Petrov and Bashirov could have been the unlucky men.

One must be careful not to laugh too much because many things that sound extremely implausible, sometimes comical, to random ears are actually true. There are many people and they do many interesting things. With some moderate selection, it is easy to pick some folks who could look suspect but whose story about the tourism and its motivation looks extremely unlikely or comical.

Let me offer you an example. Imagine that an 82-year-old Canadian mathematician of Czech origin – who started a rather famous group in Ottawa some 4 decades ago – is accused of some wrongdoing in Prague yesterday, on Wednesday. His defense would sound like this:
I have perfect alibi.

I have spent the whole day on a trip. In the morning, I took my car and drove to visit the smallest elementary school in Czechia, in the market-town [městys] of Čachrov – 100 miles from Prague. There could be lots of witnesses of my visit over there because Čachrov has 500 inhabitants. Sadly, exactly when I visited the school, all the 24 students of the school went to their own trip – to see the Black Lake in the nearby Bohemian Forest (20 miles away).

So unfortunately, no schoolkids in Čachrov may prove that I was there. But I also visited the glorious Church of the Assumption of Mary in Přeštice, a town of 7,000 people, about 20 meters from the statue of the famous genetically modified pigs from that town. Sadly, only the external door of the church was open and no one was there. And the knight castle of Švihov and the Kozel [Male Goat] Castle for hunting – no peacocks were there. Maybe the manager of the parking lot near Kozel could remember me but maybe he will prefer to remain silent because the $1 for parking probably went to his pocket so he needs to claim that I wasn't there.

Well, there's one witness who can confirm all these things. He blogs at The Reference Frame.
Now, this looks utterly silly, doesn't it? Why would an 82-year-old Canadian mathematics professor travel to some šithole in Czechia with 7,000 inhabitants (not counting the statue of two pigs) to see some irrelevant church (that is most famous for appearing in a prank telephone call to an alleged homeless pensioner that also mocks the Pilsner accent)? Why would he be visiting an elementary school at the boundary of the Bohemian Forest – the smallest school in the country – and even if he did, why would he do it on the day when all the schoolkids and teachers are away?

It just doesn't add up, does it? Except that I can indeed confirm that the whole testimony above is perfectly true and accurate. The same thing may be true for Petrov and Bashirov. Descriptions of trips sometimes sound silly because trips aren't perfectly pre-planned and especially the justifications of the trips are usually not carefully engineered for them to sound logical.

But my feeling is that the two Russian men sound suspect, anyway. Either they're guilty or the Britons did a pretty good job in picking the suspects whose defense is bound to sound rather implausible.

Full interview. The claim that there was snow in Salisbury on March 2nd when they arrived is valid. It melted in the following days.

I found this full video more persuasive but yes, it made me laugh at some moments. When they praised the world-famous Salisbury clock. And the question "u vas byl novičok". It reminded me of Ded Moroz's "rebyata menya nye khochut, rebyata khochut Pikachu".

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