STEP forward Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov or, at least, two men claiming to be the Salisbury poisoning suspects.

The Russians accused of being murderous military spies turn out to be innocent fitness workers.

And their weekend jaunt to middle England back in March was not to kill a former fellow GRU spy-turned-informer, Sergei Skripal, using the deadly Novichok nerve agent but, rather, to admire the glorious spire of Salisbury Cathedral as tourists on a visit lasting just one hour.

Their appearance on RT, the Russian state-sponsored channel, showed two men claiming to be Petrov and Boshirov but their appearances only resembled the two suspects caught on CCTV and highlighted by the UK security services. Indeed, MI5 insisted the two suspects were almost certainly using aliases.

Just 24 hours after Vladimir Putin called for the two “civilians” to speak with the media, up they popped on state television, looking decidedly nervous, to rubbish the UK authorities’ version of events and to claim they were now the victims, living in fear for their lives.

“You can't imagine what it's like,” explained Petrov. “We'd like it if one day the real perpetrators are found and we were given an apology by the UK authorities.

“I'm lost. I don't know what day it is. We can't go outside, we can't go to the petrol station; you can't imagine what our lives turned into," he complained.

Boshirov noted: "I try not to watch the news; it's over and over and over again every day. We just want this to be over."

No 10, at first remarkably muted in its response to the interview, later upped the volume with Theresa May’s spokesman saying: “The lies and blatant fabrications in this interview given to a Russian-state sponsored TV station are an insult to the public's intelligence.

"More importantly, they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack. Sadly, it is what we have come to expect.”

He added: "An illegal chemical weapon has been used on the streets of this country. We have seen four people left seriously ill in hospital and an innocent woman has died. Russia has responded with contempt."

In the interview, Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief, raised a question about the veracity of the two Russians’ identities.

"You called me on my cellphone and told me you were Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov. You really look like the pictures shown to us by the UK. Who are you?" she asked.

Petrov replied: "We are those who were shown to you in the pictures: Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov."

"Are those your real names?" asked Ms Simonyan. Boshirov replied: "Yes they are our real names."

The interviewer noted: “Even now when you're talking about it, to tell the truth, you look very nervous."

Petrov said: "What would you look like?" before his compatriot added: "When your life is turned upside down in a moment, in just one day, it changed our lives."

The Russians explained how they had come to Britain to see Stonehenge but were not able to because of the bad weather

Petrov noted how there was “slush everywhere” and having visited Salisbury once, quickly returned to their hotel in London.

Boshirov suggested: “Maybe we did[approach] Skripal's house but we don't know where it’s located."

They were caught on CCTV near Mr Skripal's home, which lies in the opposite direction to the cathedral from the railway station.

They both denied carrying Novichok, which was contained in a perfume bottle.

Borishov said: "Is it silly for decent lads to have women's perfume? 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."

Petrov insisted their friends had for a long time been suggesting they visit the “wonderful town” of Salisbury.

Borishov chipped in: “There's the famous Salisbury Cathedral, famous not only in Europe but in the whole world. It's famous for its 123-metre spire, it's famous for its clock, the one of the first-ever created in the world that is still working."