They were just two ordinary guys who had wanted to see Salisbury cathedral’s 123-metre spire

The bidding had been intense. Both the BBC and Channel 4 had put up six-figure offers, which had then been topped by NBC slamming $1m on the table. But in the end it had been RT’s offer of a lifetime’s diplomatic immunity, along with a free weekend break at an exclusive Black Sea resort, that had secured the interview every broadcaster wanted.

A day after Vladimir Putin had announced it would be fine by him if the two men accused of the Salisbury poisonings chose to go on TV to give the version of events that had been agreed by the Russian security services, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov found a gap in their busy diaries to squeeze themselves into a small Moscow studio. There they were confronted by the most feared interviewer in global broadcasting, Margarita…

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