Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a rare public comment in the Sergei Skripal case, calling the former double agent a "traitor" and "scum," and adding that the sooner the media 'noise' around Skripal ends, the better, reports Russian state-owned network RT.
Some media outlets are “pushing through a theory that Mr Skripal is some sort of a rights activist. He’s plainly a spy. A traitor to his homeland. There’s such a thing – being a traitor to the homeland. He is one,” Putin said on Wednesday, speaking at the Russian Energy Week International Forum in Moscow.
“Imagine, if there’s a person in your country who betrayed it. How would you treat him?” Putin added. “He’s plainly scum.” -RT
Putin added that the whole Skripal situation had been blown out of proportion, and that "the faster [the media campaign] ends, the better."
21 people were hospitalized in March after being exposed to Novichok nerve agent that sent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia to the emergency room. Neither died, however a second couple became critically ill from Novichok poisoning in July, leading to the death of a woman just a few miles away from where the Skripals were hit. The Skripals and the more recent victims are not connected.
Two suspects accused of being Russian intelligence agents for the GRU were named by the UK, however they have denied the charges, saying that they were innocent tourists visiting Salisbury twice during a weekend trip to Britain.
That said, a recently uncovered photograph on display at a Russian military academy is fueling speculation that the men are with the GRU.
The photo, highlighted in an October 2 report published jointly by RFE/RL's Russian Service and the open-source investigative website Bellingcat, builds on other recent reports that have used data from passport registries, online photographs, and military records to focus on a Russian man identified by British authorities as Ruslan Boshirov. -Radio Free Europe
Meanwhile Ukraine's interior minister, Arsen Avakov have accused the men of helping to smuggle ex-president Victor Yanukovich to Russia in 2014 during a wave of street protests.
"Interior Minister Arsen Avakov noted that one of the participants in the attack in the Salisbury, an officer of the GRU of the Russian Federation, had been recognised in Ukraine as a person who had been involved in transporting ex-president Yanukovich from Ukraine," the minister’s statement said (via Reuters).
Skripal prisoner exchange
Skripal was originally sentenced to 13 years in prison after Russia discovered that he had allegedly been paid $100,000 by MI6 to expose undercover Russian intelligence agents in 2006 - the same year Russian double-agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned. In 2010, however, Skripal was one of four prisoners released by Moscow in exchange for 10 US spies - after which he moved to the UK and befriended an employee of Christopher Steele.
The Telegraph understands that Col Skripal moved to Salisbury in 2010 in a spy swap and became close to a security consultant employed by Christopher Steele, who compiled the Trump dossier. -Telegraph
A deleted LinkedIn account revealed that the British security consultant is based in Salisbury, and his employer is Orbis Business Intelligence - Steele's firm. Steele notoriously assembled a series of memos containing anti-Trump opposition research to Fusion GPS, the first seventeen of which were compiled into the unverified "Trump-Russia" dossier which the FBI relied on to obtain a spy warrant against a Trump campaign associate.
Why wouldn't Putin like the guy?