Russian president Vladimir Putin called Sergei Skripal, the former spy whose poisoning in Salisbury with a nerve agent sparked an ongoing diplomatic row between Moscow and London, a traitor on Wednesday.

“He’s just a spy who betrayed his motherland,” Mr Putin said at an energy conference.

“Imagine: suddenly someone goes and betrays your country. What do you think about him? Anyone here from any country? He’s just a scumbag, and that’s it,” he said.

Mr Putin added that he thought the “hubbub” around the case would eventually die down. “As is well known, espionage, just like prostitution, is one of the world’s most important professions. Nobody’s ever shut it down, or is in a position to now,” he said.

The UK has accused Russia’s military intelligence agency of poisoning Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March by smearing the nerve agent novichok on Mr Skripal’s front door.

Though Russia denies any involvement in the attack, the investigative websites Bellingcat and The Insider published documents that suggested the accused poisoners — named as Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov — were Russian secret agents.

Mr Boshirov — whose real name, according to Bellingcat, is Anatoliy Chepiga — and Mr Petrov claimed in a bizarre TV interview that they were sports nutrition salesmen who had wanted to see Salisbury cathedral.

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