Body language expert says Russian novichok assassins looked anxious and stressed in interview

Two Russian assassins accused of trying to kill Russian double agent Sergei Skripal by putting deadly nerve agent Novichok on his door-handle were today interviewed on Russian State TV and said they were only tourists not killers.

The two suspected agents, believed to be from Siberia, told Russia Today they were stuck in Salisbury twice in two days after failing to get to Stonehenge because of snow.

In the ‘absurd’ interview the men even admitted they may have ended up at Sergei Skripal’s suburban home ‘by accident’ while looking for the cathedral, which has a 400ft spire and is 25 minutes in the other direction. 

The Russian assassins appeared to be regurgitating a script and intent on fixing their ‘poker faces’, a body language expert told MailOnline today.

Petrov was the most controlled and calm while Boshirov shows symptoms stress or anxiety, Judy James said.

The expert has watched the RT interview back and this is what she saw:

The pair claim they were only in Salisbury for an hour because of gaps in the Sunday train service to London and said if they stumbled upon Sergei Skripal's suburban house it was only by accident

The pair claim they were only in Salisbury for an hour because of gaps in the Sunday train service to London and said if they stumbled upon Sergei Skripal's suburban house it was only by accident

The pair claim they were only in Salisbury for an hour because of gaps in the Sunday train service to London and said if they stumbled upon Sergei Skripal’s suburban house it was only by accident

Alexander Petrov, right in CCTV footage, and Ruslan Boshirov, left, were named by British authorities as the suspects but insisted they are victims of a smear and were merely on holiday 

Alexander Petrov, right in CCTV footage, and Ruslan Boshirov, left, were named by British authorities as the suspects but insisted they are victims of a smear and were merely on holiday 

Alexander Petrov, right in CCTV footage, and Ruslan Boshirov, left, were named by British authorities as the suspects but insisted they are victims of a smear and were merely on holiday 

Petrov sits slightly slumped rather than in a more alert, pleading style as you might do if you were trying to convince people of your innocent role. His arms and hands are hidden below the table. 

This can be used as a body version of a ‘poker face’, when someone is keen to hide their hands in case they give the wrong signals away, but it can also be a desire to hide and feel protected by the table barrier.

His trait of turning his chair from side to side is interesting as it could signal nervousness or it could suggest a much more controlling impatience and annoyance. His eyes remain pinned to the interviewer throughout most of the clip with what looks like a confident, piercing stare. 

When he closes his eyes and nods for an affirmative answer his emphatic facial gestures do suggest power rather than submission.

During their brazen TV appearance (pictured) the men claimed they now fear for their lives and demanded an apology from Britain and RT said they were so nervous they needed Cognac before going on air

During their brazen TV appearance (pictured) the men claimed they now fear for their lives and demanded an apology from Britain and RT said they were so nervous they needed Cognac before going on air

During their brazen TV appearance (pictured) the men claimed they now fear for their lives and demanded an apology from Britain and RT said they were so nervous they needed Cognac before going on air

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured together in Salisbury) were poisoned with Novichok after it was smeared on his front door

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured together in Salisbury) were poisoned with Novichok after it was smeared on his front door

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured together in Salisbury) were poisoned with Novichok after it was smeared on his front door

When we are in a state of stress or anxiety our blink rate often increases as the adrenalin of fear kicks in. Petrov’s blink rate looks extremely slow here though. At one point he does almost five turns of his chair between blinks and this could again suggest inner strength or confidence.

When he is told they look nervous his upper lip seems to lift in a small snarl as though either the accusation annoys him or the fact his nerves have been prompted by events annoys him.

What were they doing in Salisbury? His eyes flick to the right which can suggest creative thinking, although he might have looked in that direction because he had known his friend was about to begin his travelogue of the beautiful sights of Salisbury on cue.

Boshirov is far more active during the clip and he also shows more symptoms of what could be nervousness. His first pose looks overall superficially more confident, sitting back in his chair with his elbows on the arms in a slight splay of control, but the movement of his upper chest suggests shallow rapid breathing that can occur when someone feels under pressure. 

The two Skripal suspects Ruslan Boshirov (left) and Alexander Petrov (right) have spoken out for the first time and say they were just tourists enjoying the delights of Salibury

The two Skripal suspects Ruslan Boshirov (left) and Alexander Petrov (right) have spoken out for the first time and say they were just tourists enjoying the delights of Salibury

The two Skripal suspects Ruslan Boshirov (left) and Alexander Petrov (right) have spoken out for the first time and say they were just tourists enjoying the delights of Salibury

Alexander Petrov (left) and Ruslan Boshirov (right) have been accused by British police of being two Russian spies (pictured in their passport photos)

His blink rate is also much faster than his friend’s and he takes several large swallows that could also be prompted by stress or anxiety.

He swings into action when they are accused of looking ‘nervous’, leaning forward suddenly with both arms on the table, performing a hand-shrug before linking his fingers and forming a steeple gesture with his thumbs, which is normally a signal of power or status.

Apparently frustrated, he puffs and shrugs before sitting back leaving one hand on the table.

His ‘guide book’ monologue about Salisbury comes after a very deep breath and a forward stare as though he’s accessing an inner script in his head. 

‘Absurd’ claims of the novichok assassins: Observers point out several holes in pair’s ‘innocent tourists’ story 

The ‘accidental’ visit to Skripal’s home

CCTV released by police places the two suspects at Sergei Skripal’s suburban house.

Today the men admitted they may have ended up there – but claimed it was an accident.

The property, which had novichok smeared on the door, is 25 minutes away from the city centre and its cathedral – which the men said they were there to see. 

Ruslan Boshirov said: ‘Maybe we passed it, or maybe we didn’t. I’d never heard about them before this nightmare started. I’d never heard this name before. I didn’t know anything about them’.

The ‘bad’ weather

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov claimed that they only stayed in Salisbury because of heavy snow.

The pair visited days after the Beast from the East hit Britain bringing unseasonably cold weather.

Describing the condition Boshirov said: ‘It was impossible to get anywhere because of the snow. We were drenched up to our knees’.

But CCTV pictures of the men shows the pavements were largely clear of snow.

They also told RT that it snowed in the city that afternoon, but weather maps from that day show sunshine and clear skies.  

The hotel

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were guests at the City Stay Hotel in Bow, East London, before poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed today that ‘low’ levels of the nerve agent were found in the two-star £48 a night hotel in May.

The men chose a spot some distance from Waterloo – the main rail route to Salisbury – despite making the Wiltshire city the focus of their visit.

The luggage 

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. 


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