LONDON, June 27. /TASS/. The Skripal poisoning narrative is not worth a dime, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with The Financial Times on Thursday.
"Listen, all this fuss about spies and counterspies, it is not worth serious interstate relations. This spy story, as we say, it is not worth five kopecks. Or even five pounds, for that matter," he said. "And the issues concerning interstate relations, they are measured in billions and the fate of millions of people. How can we compare one with the other?"
According to the Russian leader, Moscow and London can keep on accusing each other endlessly but any allegations about Russia’s involvement in the Skripal poisoning must be proved.
"The average person listens and says, "Who are these Skripals?" And it turns out that Skripal was engaged in espionage against us [Russia]. So this person asks the next question, "Why did you spy on us using Skripal? Maybe you should not have done that?" You know, these questions are infinite," he noted. "We need to just leave it alone and let security agencies deal with it."
According to Putin, treason is "the most despicable crime that one can imagine."
"As a matter of fact, treason is the gravest crime possible and traitors must be punished. I am not saying that the Salisbury incident is the way to do it. Not at all. But traitors must be punished," he went on.
"This gentleman, Skripal, had already been punished. He was arrested, sentenced and then served time in prison. He received his punishment. For that matter, he was off the radar. Why would anybody be interested in him? He got punished. He was detained, arrested, sentenced and then spent five years in prison. Then he was released and that was it.
In Putin's words, outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May "could not help but be concerned" by the devastating effect those spy scandals produced on bilateral relations. Both Russia and the United Kingdom are interested in restoring full-format bilateral relations, he added.
"I think that both Russia and the United Kingdom are interested in fully restoring our relations," Putin said. "At least I hope that a few preliminary steps will be made. I think it would be easier for Mrs May, maybe, because she is leaving and is free to do what she thinks is right, important and necessary and not to bother about some domestic political consequences."
"I think that Mrs May, despite her resignation, could not help but be concerned that these spy scandals made our relations reach a deadlock so we could not develop our ties normally and support business people, who are doing what? They do not only earn money, this is what is on the outside. They create jobs and added value, plus they provide revenue at all levels of the tax system of their countries. This is a serious and multifaceted job, with the same risks you mentioned, including risks related to business operations. And if we add an unpredictable political situation, they will not be able to work at all," Putin added.
Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters that Putin would meet with May in Osaka late on June 28. According to him, the talks are scheduled for 17:00 local time (11:00 Moscow time). The talks will follow a meeting with US President Donald Trump, whom Putin is too meet three hours earlier.
The UK government confirmed that the Putin-May talks have indeed been scheduled.
Skripal poisoning incident
If the British version of the affair is to be believed former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal, 66, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia, 33, suffered the effects of a nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury on March 4. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia ever had any program aimed at developing such an agent. Notably, Britain’s military chemical laboratory at Porton Down near Salisbury it failed to trace the origin of the substance that poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripals.