Vladimir Putin on Wednesday attacked the ex-Russian secret agent Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned in England in March, claiming that he had continued to collaborate with the Western secret services. “I see that some of your colleagues are pushing the theory that Mr Skripal was almost some kind of human rights activist, Putin said in response to a question from a moderator. “He was simply a spy. A traitor to the motherland. There is such a concept – a traitor to the motherland. He was one of those.”
“We released him [from prison], he left and continued to collaborate and advise the [British] secret services,” said the Russian president at a forum devoted to energy in Moscow. “He’s simply a scumbag, that’s all.”
Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on 4 March on a public bench in Salisbury, southern England, after a Soviet-style innervating agent, Novichok, was sprinkled on the front door of their home. After several weeks, they were finally able to leave hospital.
The poisoning provoked a diplomatic crisis between London, supported by its Western allies, and Russia. London accuses the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, of being behind the poisoning and has issued a European Arrest Warrant against two Russians suspected of perpetrating the attack on the Skripals.
Last week, the investigative website Bellingcat revealed that one of the two accused men, who travelled under the fake name of Ruslan Boshirov, is actually Colonel Anatoli Tchepiga, a GRU officer decorated with high honours.
Moscow has denounced what it calls a “manipulation of information” and denies any involvement. “Sometimes I look at what’s going on around this business, and I’m scared,” Putin said on Wednesday.
Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer, was sentenced in 2006 for “high treason” after being convicted of selling information to the British. He settled in England after he took part in an exchange of spies between Moscow, London and Washington in 2010.