In his most controversial statement surrounding the poisoning of Sergei Skripal to date, President Putin has branded the former spy a “scumbag” and “traitor to the motherland”.
For many months now the Russian President has avoided discussing the former spy in public debates, presumably so as not to fan the flames of conspiracy in those who claim the poisoning was authorised by the Kremlin.
“I see that some of your colleagues are pushing the theory that Mr. Skripal was almost some kind of human rights activist,” the President remarked in response to a question at a Moscow Energy Forum.
He continued: “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.”
To some, this may seem inflammatory. But we must remember that Sergei Skripal had been a double-agent, working against his native country by passing military secrets to and colluding in other ways with the British Intelligence Agency MI6.
Interestingly, Moscow has also accused Skripal of becoming active once more, after ostensibly “retiring” after his release from prison in 2010 – he’d served 6 years of a 13-year sentence for High Treason, incredibly lenient by any normal metric.
But in recent years, Skripal had been travelling to former communist countries that were within the Soviet sphere of influence. He’d met with senior intelligence officials of the Czech Republic and Estonia.
The New York Times published a story earlier this year, in which they themselves accused Skripal of being “still in the game”, speculating that he’d met these foreign officials to share secrets on Russian intelligence methods.
It was also reported to Channel 4 News that Skripal was still in contact with senior military personnel within the Russian administration.
Given the botched nature of this attempted murder, one still holds to the belief that the Russian state wasn’t involved in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. However, if they were, it’s difficult to see how we can blame them for that.
As Putin accurately said; Sergei Skripal is a convicted traitor to his country and apparently continues to be a national security liability in retirement.