Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a stern attack against former spy Sergei Skripal on Wednesday, describing him as a "scumbag" who betrayed Russia.
"He is just a scumbag," Putin told an energy forum in Moscow. "He is just a spy, a traitor to the homeland."
It was the first time the Russian president directly condemned the former double agent, who was detained by Russia in 2005 but released five years later as part of a spy swap. Putin also accused Skripal of continuing to cooperate with foreign intelligence services after his release despite officially retiring.
"He was caught, he was punished, he spent five years in prison, we let him go, he left and continued cooperating with, providing consultations to [foreign] security services," Putin said.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a bench in the English town of Salisbury in March. Britain says the pair was poisoned with a Soviet-designed nerve agent known as Novichok.
Both were hospitalized for weeks but ultimately survived the attempted assassination, although a woman later died from what British authorities say was contact with the nerve agent which her partner had found in a discarded perfume bottle.
British intelligence has accused Russian intelligence of orchestrating the attack, singling out the Russian pair Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. The two were in Salisbury at the time of the poisoning, although both they and the Russian government have denied any involvement.
Last week, the investigative group Bellingcat alleged that Boshirov was a highly-decorated colonel of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. His real name is believed to be Anatoliy Chepiga.
dm/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)