The two Kremlin-sponsored novichok assassins ridiculed after claiming to have been ordinary tourists have at least ten gaping holes in their "absurd" story, it was revealed today.

The men, claiming to be Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, claimed to be desperate to see the Salisbury Cathedral's magnificent "123-metre spire" and visited the city twice in three days, the Daily Mail reported.

But bizarrely they stayed 127 miles away in an east London hotel even though they insisted they were in Britain to visit its "famous cathedral" and took no pictures.

Grab taken from CCTV and issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018, Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov walk on Fisherton Road, Salisbury. Photo / AP
Grab taken from CCTV and issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018, Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov walk on Fisherton Road, Salisbury. Photo / AP

They also claimed attempts to get to nearby Stonehenge were thwarted, even though a bus was running to the world's most famous prehistoric monument from outside the station.

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And the men claimed snow "up to their knees" cut short their Salisbury trip - even though the weather was sunny and pavements were clear - while they also admitted they may have ended up outside Sergei Skripal's house by accident.

The pair also failed to explain why they had booked two alternative return flights from London to Moscow – giving them the option of fleeing on Sunday or Monday - a and CCTV suggested that they did not have any luggage with them on their way home to Russia.

Their unlikely story was branded "lies and blatant fabrication" by Theresa May last night, who said it "insulted the public's intelligence" and was deeply offensive to the victims of the chemical attack.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt added: "The last time Russian military claimed to be on holiday was when they invaded Ukraine in 2014."

The men broke cover eight days after their mugshots were issued by Scotland Yard – which has accused them of attempted murder – and Mrs May told the Commons they were intelligence agents from Russia's feared GRU.

The men told Kremlin-funded state broadcaster Russia Today yesterday they had been on a two-day holiday to Salisbury.

But these ten glaring flaws blow a huge hole in their version of events.

1. What about the Novichok found in hotel room?

The most glaring problem with their story is the fact that traces of novichok were found in their hotel room in East London. They were not asked, and did not explain, how this could possibly be the case.

2. Why stay in East London anyway?

The pair say they flew from Moscow to visit Salisbury insisting: "Our friends have been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city." But if they had truly wanted to experience the Wiltshire gem, why not stay in one of more than 60 hotels and guesthouses in the city? Instead, they wasted hours going back and forth on trains.

3. Their complaints about the snowy weather

Ruslan Boshirov claimed: "It was impossible to get anywhere because of the snow. We were drenched up to our knees." And his accomplice complained that on their Sunday visit, "there was heavy rain with snow". Salisbury had indeed been transformed into a stunning winter wonderland with a blanket of snow in the days before they arrived. But the temperatures were already easing on Saturday March 3, the first day they visited. By Sunday it was a relatively balmy 9C and occasionally sunny. There were no reports of "heavy rain". CCTV images of the pair on Sunday showed it was damp but there was not a snowflake in sight. And a photo taken of Salisbury Cathedral on March 3 shows the snow had already melted from its roof.

4. Wrong direction for visiting cathedral

Boshirov and Petrov insist they wanted to witness the magnificent spire of Salisbury Cathedral. This can be seen from the railway station – yet CCTV shows how the two Russians set off in completely the opposite direction. Instead of heading south-east from the station to the cathedral, they walked north-west and were captured on CCTV walking past a Shell garage on the way to the Skripal family home.

5. No pictures of them visiting cathedral

The unlikely sightseers were spotted in many places in Salisbury – yet not at the cathedral, despite it being the city's main attraction. They claim to have been there on the Sunday, saying: "The cathedral is very beautiful. They have lots of tourists, lots of Russian tourists." If CCTV exists of them visiting the 800-year-old treasure, it has not been made public.

This combination photo made available by the Metropolitan Police on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018, shows Alexander Petrov, left, and Ruslan Boshirov. Photo / AP
This combination photo made available by the Metropolitan Police on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018, shows Alexander Petrov, left, and Ruslan Boshirov. Photo / AP

The two men do claim to have their own snaps of their visit however, but have failed to release them. The pair also claim they also "went to a park, we had some coffee. We went to a coffee shop and drank coffee". So far, no CCTV has been released to back this up.

The claim by two suspects in the Skripal case that they visited Salisbury to see its cathedral "doesn't seem to add up", the Wiltshire city's bishop has said.

Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam said he was not aware of any evidence linking Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov to the cathedral, and suggested that the Russian men might have benefited from a visit to the building and a viewing of its copy of Magna Carta.

Responding to the men's claims, the bishop told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It doesn't really add up, does it?"

Asked whether there was CCTV footage of them at the cathedral, he said: "There's nothing to link (them with) the cathedral that we have got, or I think anybody has got. There's no way of proving that."

This still taken from CCTV and issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018, shows Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station. Photo / AP
This still taken from CCTV and issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018, shows Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station. Photo / AP

The bishop said that his response to the men's TV interview was to think "What a pity that they didn't spend longer in that city, where they could have explored the cathedral and seen a building that is committed to the love of God, where there is regular worship to lift our hearts, the tallest spire and a copy of Magna Carta about the rule of law and of justice. They didn't seem to see any of that, did they?"

6. Bus tours to Stonehenge were not cancelled

Petrov said the pair had also wanted to see nearby Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, "but it didn't work out because of the slush". Visitors to the prehistoric monument, nine miles north of Salisbury, can catch a bus directly from the station forecourt.

This still taken from CCTV and issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018, shows Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station. Photo / AP
This still taken from CCTV and issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2018, shows Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station. Photo / AP

Asked if snow or anything else had affected services, a spokesman for bus operator Salisbury Reds told the Mail yesterday: "The tour buses ran as normal on Sunday 4 March."

7. Airport entry photo

Boshirov suggests CCTV photos of them walking through Gatwick arrivals must have been faked, because they appear to show the two men walking through the same customs channel with precisely the same timestamp. But British police have already explained that there are two parallel channels.

8. 'Fake photos' proved real

The pair's confessions they were indeed the men in the photos wrecks one of Russia's favourite conspiracy theories – that the British authorities faked the images.

9. Bad timing

A major flaw in their account was the very fact that the Skripals were indeed poisoned on the day they visited Salisbury.

10. Two return flights and the missing luggage

The pair also failed to explain why they had booked two alternative return flights from London to Moscow – giving them the option of fleeing on Sunday or Monday. The men went straight from Salisbury to Heathrow for the evening flight. But CCTV suggested that they did not have any luggage with them on their way home.

The two Kremlin assassins were widely ridiculed yesterday after claiming to have been ordinary tourists desperate to see the Salisbury Cathedral's magnificent "123-metre spire".

The burly pair admitted they were in the city on the day Sergei Skripal was poisoned, but insisted they only went to visit its "famous cathedral" and nearby Stonehenge.

Their unlikely story was branded "lies and blatant fabrication" by Theresa May last night, who said it "insulted the public's intelligence" and was deeply offensive to the victims of the chemical attack. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt added: "The last time Russian military claimed to be on holiday was when they invaded Ukraine in 2014."

Boshirov, left, and Petrov attend their first public appearance in an interview with the Kremlin-funded RT channel. Photo / AP
Boshirov, left, and Petrov attend their first public appearance in an interview with the Kremlin-funded RT channel. Photo / AP

The men broke cover eight days after their mugshots were issued by Scotland Yard – which has accused them of attempted murder – and Mrs May told the Commons they were intelligence agents from Russia's feared GRU.

The men told Kremlin-funded state broadcaster Russia Today yesterday they had been on a two-day holiday to Salisbury.

In the stage-managed interview, they admitted "maybe" they ended up at former double agent Mr Skripal's suburban home by accident while looking for the cathedral, which has a 400ft spire and is a 25-minute walk in the opposite direction.

They insisted their real names were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. The Yard says these are the aliases the GRU hitmen used to travel to Britain on March 2 for their assassination mission.

They were interviewed on camera for 25 minutes by RT's editor-in-chief, who says she offered them cognac to quell their nerves.

The men claimed their lives had been "turned upside down" since being named as suspects.

But the interview shed no light on their backgrounds and they were not asked to explain why traces of novichok were found in their east London hotel room –127 miles from the Skripals' home.

Instead, to global mockery, they told how they flew to Britain because friends had urged them to visit "wonderful" Salisbury.

In praising their destination, Boshirov sounded like he was reciting a Wikipedia page, stating: "It's famous for its 123-metre spire. It's famous for its clock. It's the oldest working clock in the world."

A body-language expert said the men appeared to be reciting "guide book monologues" about Salisbury.

Even prominent Russians were openly ridiculing the pair's insistence they were not trained killers.

In London, the Prime Minister was scathing of Moscow's "contempt" for the novichok episode, which nearly killed Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, and claimed the life of Dawn Sturgess, 44, whose partner Charlie Rowley, 45, had unwittingly given her the fake bottle of perfume used to carry the nerve agent.

Anti-terror police are understood to "stand by everything" they have said about the two suspects. Intelligence officers know the men's real names, and sources said they concluded they were GRU hitmen based on solid intelligence which has not been made public.

Mrs May said: "The lies and blatant fabrications in this interview … 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. 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."

As relations with Moscow worsened, the Russian embassy claimed its diplomats had been "banned" from attending a Conservative Party event for the first time.

Ministers say Vladimir Putin personally ordered the assassination attempt, but the Russian President has denied all involvement.

In their interview, Petrov and Boshirov told RT they fear the British secret service has a "bounty on our heads".

Boshirov denied the Kremlin had forced them to speak out, and said: "We're afraid of going out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones." They described themselves as "decent lads" working in the "sports nutrition business".

They said they went to Salisbury twice in two days to try to get to Stonehenge but were thwarted each time by snow. They said they got "drenched" and "freezing" and on both days stayed for a short period, before heading back to London on the train.

Boshirov confessed: "Maybe we did [approach] Skripal's house, but we don't know where it was located."

Police say the hitmen went on Saturday March 3 as a dry run before the murder attempt on the Sunday and travelling back to Heathrow and a flight to Moscow that evening.

In Moscow, Sergey Dorenko, of Govorit Moskva radio, said he was ashamed at the "clumsy" interview.

Journalist Oleg Kashin said it had the opposite effect to what Mr Putin had hoped for – and amounted to a "confession" that Britain was right.