Security services believe they travelled from Moscow to the United Kingdom to smeared deadly nerve agent Novichok on a door handle at the Wiltshire home of former spy Sergei Skripal, leaving him and his daughter Yulia critically ill.
Despite an extensive CCTV trail of the pair's abrupt trip to Salisbury on the day of the poisoning, Russian state propaganda outlet Russia Today carried an interview in which the men insisted they were actually just "tourists".
Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia's state-funded RT, wrote on social media that she had met and interviewed two men called Petrov and Boshirov on Wednesday evening.
Sources say the conclusion that the men were GRU officers was based on intelligence about Russian operatives and further inquiries made after the March attack on the Skripals.
The men seemed to be around 40 years old and wore nearly identical dark blue jumpers. "They're a normal pair who just got into trouble, I'm sure they feel pretty bad now", said Leonid, a 58-year-old entrepreneur.
Skripal's attempted assassination has drawn comparisons with the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko with highly radioactive polonium in London in 2006.
Britain said the attack was nearly surely approved at a top level of the Russian government.
Asked about the RT interview, Downing St declined to give any new comment.
"They are believed to have taken a similar route when they returned to London on the afternoon of Saturday, 3 March".
"The Police and Crown Prosecution Service have identified these men as the prime suspects in relation to the attack in Salisbury".
"Our friends recommended a long time ago that we visit that wonderful city", the man identifying himself as Petrov told RT.
"Perhaps we did pass by Skripal's house, but we don't know where it is", said Boshirov.
We want to hear from you.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who were formally accused of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, are seen in this image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London.
They all recovered but a fake perfume bottle containing Novichok was picked up by a local man.
"Is it not silly for decent lads to have women's perfume?".
"A tourist town", Boshirov said. "We didn't have it". "I don't know what to expect tomorrow", said Boshirov.
From there it is believed that they travelled by train into London, arriving at Victoria station at approximately 5.40pm. "We're afraid to go out, we fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones", said Mr Boshirov.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Friday that Russian authorities will consider Britain's request to interrogate them if it comes.
"This is not an interrogation", Boshirov said.
The regulator said Thursday's interview had not yet triggered any new complaints but industry experts said the network had taken a big risk by airing the interview. They said they had fallen victim to a "fantastical fatal coincidence". "Their lips move, words come out, but it is the action of putting these men forward that sends the message that Putin is proud of what they did". "The story then changes to what they said was a pack of lies".
"The Spy Who Went Home Because It Was Cold", quipped Twitter user Ben Stanley.