Russian President Vladimir Putin called former spy Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned along with his daughter in the UK, a "traitor" and suggested that the incident was being "artificially blown up" by the media.
Asked at an energy forum on Wednesday in Moscow to comment on the case and its consequences, the Russian President launched into a tirade against Skripal, who was hospitalised along with his daughter Yulia after exposure to a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury in March.
"I see that some of your colleagues are pushing the theory that Skripal is almost a human-rights activist," Putin said.
"He’s just a spy. A traitor to the Motherland. There’s such a thing as a traitor to the Motherland. He’s one of them. He’s just a scumbag, that’s all."
Putin said that the Salisbury affair "is being artificially…blown up" by the media, but added: "It’ll pass, eventually… The sooner it’s over, the better."
The comments come amid a deepening diplomatic clash between Moscow and the UK, which has blamed the March 4 poisonings on the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency.
UK investigators have also formally linked the attack on the Skripals to the June 30 poisoning of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, a couple living in Amesbury, near Salisbury.
Sturgess died on July 8 after applying a substance to her wrists from a perfume bottle found by Rowley.
The Kremlin has consistently dismissed official British allegations.>