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President Vladimir Putin lashed out at ex-spy Sergei Skripal as a “scumbag” and a “traitor” in his harshest public response yet to accusations that Russia targeted the double agent in the first chemical-weapons attack in Europe since World War II.

Skripal, who survived a nerve-agent poisoning in March in the English city of Salisbury together with his daughter Yulia, is “just a spy, a traitor to his motherland,” Putin said Wednesday at an energy forum in Moscow. “He’s just a scumbag.”

The Russian president repeated denials that his country was responsible for the attack, saying that there was no reason to eliminate Skripal, who was freed in a spy swap in 2010. “We released him and that was it, he left. He still continued to cooperate, consult with some special services there. So what?” Putin said.

An “information campaign” around the Skripal case has been “artificially blown up,” Putin said.

He belittled allegations that two Russian agents had also inadvertently poisoned a British woman in the attack. “I sometimes look at what’s happening around this case and I’m just surprised: Some guys showed up and started poisoning homeless people there in Great Britain. What kind of nonsense is that?”

The Skripal case plunged ties between Russia and the U.K., already frosty, into crisis. Britain secured support of its allies for the coordinated expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats, provoking a tit-for-tat response. The U.S. also has imposed sanctions over the attack and is threatening further punitive measures.

Print Headline: Putin says poisoned ex-spy a ‘scumbag’

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