In going public as the Russian men accused by London of carrying out deadly poisonings on English soil, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov both expressed and generated disbelief at the same time.
Their first public appearance, a September 12 interview with the Kremlin-funded RT channel, contained a few head-scratchers.
While the two admitted that they were in Salisbury, England -- where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a park bench on March 4 -- they gave a somewhat unconventional answer for making the effort to visit.
Their reason for traveling a quarter of the way across the globe to see Salisbury? To see the southern English town's cathedral.
"Our friends recommended a long time ago that we visit that wonderful city," the man identifying himself as Petrov told RT. Boshirov added that the two wanted to see the "famous" cathedral's 123-meter spire and clock.
It was a suggestion that many on social media, including Intercept investigative reporter Ryan Gallagher, weren't buying:
Some, like Telegraph Russia correspondent Alec Luhn, responded in all seriousness, noting London's allegation that the two men are officers with Russia's military intelligence agency:
And others, like freelance journalist Ned Donovan, mocked the statement with a string of mocking and satirical comments such as this:
John Glen, a conservative member of parliamen from Salisbury itself, chimed in on Twitter:
Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt called the two out on their travel claim:
The cathedral itself, to be fair, defended its honor.
Russians Who Never Saw Slush?
Boshirov and Petrov went on to explain that they had also expected to visit other nearby attractions, but their plans were thwarted.
"Of course, we went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere," they told RT. "The town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back [to London]."
Doubt was soon cast.
CCTV footage of what appear to be the two walking in Salisbury on the day of the poisoning show little signs of slush or snow, as Max Seddon, Moscow correspondent for The Financial Times, pointed out on Twitter.
Author and journalist Guy Walters did note there was snow in the area, but wondered why that would have deterred the two, offering photographic evidence of a Salisbury man dealing with the natural phenomenon:
Walters also highlighted that the weather conditions apparently did not deter the two from walking an even greater distance to the Srkipal home, which they said in the interview that they might have approached.
"Isn't it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?" Boshirov asked, addressing the allegations that the two had carried a Soviet-produced nerve agent allegedly used in the Skripal poisonings in a Nina Ricci perfume box, and smeared some of the contents on the front door of Sergei Skripal's Salisbury home.
"The customs are checking everything. They would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it."
Telegraph correspondent Luhn was brief in response:
The two suspects portrayed themselves as businessmen who work in “sports nutrition” and often travel together around Europe, having once spent New Year's in Switzerland.
"We examine the market, look if there is something new – some biologically active additives, amino acids, vitamins, microelements .... We pick up the most necessary, come here and decide how to deliver the new products from this market here.”
That, too, raised eyebrows, including those of James Longman, a correspondent with the U.S. network ABC.