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Putin denies poisoning man he calls “a traitor to the motherland.”

Matt Dunham - WPA Pool /Getty

At a Moscow conference on energy, Russian President Vladimir Putin adamantly rejected allegations that his government instigated the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. The Skripals survived, but the attack also killed an English woman,  Dawn Sturgess, who has no connection to Russia. 

Still, Putin wasted little time expressing sympathy for those hurt by the attack. “I see that some of your colleagues are pushing the theory that Mr Skripal was almost some kind of human rights activist,” Putin said. “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.” Putin also described Skripal as a “scumbag.”

About Sturgess’s death, Putin said, “You want to tell me that we also poisoned some homeless person? What is this nonsense?” 

Putin’s comments seemed designed to provoke British sensibilities. British police offer a very different account of the killing and poisoning.  “Two Russian nationals have been named and charged over the novichok poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, Wiltshire,” The Guardian reported in September. “Police said the two men were travelling on authentic Russian passports under the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and arrived in the UK on an Aeroflot flight days before the attack. The Crown Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to charge them.” Both suspects are allegedly Russian intelligence agents.