MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called Sergei Skripal, the ex-spy who was poisoned with a military grade nerve agent in Britain, a traitor and a “scumbag.”
It was the first time Putin directly condemned Skripal, who spent weeks hospitalized with his daughter after both were poisoned in the city of Salisbury in March. Britain put the blame squarely on the Russian government, but Moscow has denied any role in the attack.
Asked about international sanctions on Russia triggered by the poisoning, Putin called the ex-spy a “traitor” who betrayed his country and “just a scumbag.”
Putin reiterated Russia’s claim that it has nothing to do with the poisoning. He added that the former agent was of no interest to the Kremlin since he was tried in Russia and exchanged in a spy swap in 2010.
“He was caught, punished and served a total of five years in prison. We let him go. That’s that,” he told a panel discussion at an energy forum.
Britain charged two Russian men with the poisoning last month. Putin said the men were civilians who did nothing criminal, and urged them to speak to news outlets.
The pair then appeared on Russia’s state-funded RT channel, saying they had visited Salisbury as tourists and denying any involvement in the attack.
Last week international investigative group Bellingcat reported that one of the suspects, identified by authorities as Ruslan Boshirov, is in fact Col. Anatoly Chepiga of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, who was awarded Russia’s highest medal in 2014.
Several Russian media outlets interviewed residents in a village where Chepiga’s family once lived, who identified the colonel as the man caught in CCTV footage in Salisbury.