We often award ‘Hero of the Russian Federation’ medal to our most successful cathedral spotters, insists Vladimir Putin

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has insisted there is nothing unusual about one of the suspects in the Skripal poisoning case being awarded the highest honour in his country, as tourists are often recognised for their sightseeing achievements.

As suspect Ruslan Boshirov was revealed to actually be Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, a Russian military asset, Putin went on to say that duel identities are quite common in the secretive world of Russian cathedral appreciation.

“In some parts of Russia, admiring a 123m spire is right up there with committing homosexual acts,” claimed Putin.

“Disgusting, sweaty, breathless homosexual acts committed by two naked, lithe bodies going at it rampantly, freed from the judging eyes of Russian society.

“As such, it has a certain stigma attached to it – which is unfortunate, as it leads so many cathedral admirers to take on a second identity so they can go about their cathedral spotting business without being concerned about who is watching or judging them.

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“So shame on the British press for revealing his second identity – I hope you’re all proud of yourselves that he will now be shunned in Russia simply because of the way he chooses to live his life. His cathedral spotting days are almost certainly behind him.

“I hope you’re happy.”

Russia intelligence spokesperson Simon Williamsov said it was unfair to assume Colonel Chepiga was guilty of poisoning the Skripals, rather than being guilty of merely sightseeing in .

He told us, “Can Russian intelligence officers and GRU trainer operatives not also have hobbies?

“It says more about you than it does about us that you immediately leap to assume a man who has been undercover for nine years after training with Russian special forces would be in Salisbury to kill a man who sold Russian secrets to MI6, rather just being there to admire all 123m of the cathedral’s spire.

“For shame, Britain. For shame.”