Vladimir Putin has questioned the UK’s explanation around the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, saying the use of a military grade agent “is not possible” as its victims would have died “immediately”.
Asked by Press Association chief executive Clive Marshall to explain who is responsible for the Skripals’ poisoning, the Russian president instead cast doubt over Britain’s own claims and called for an “objective” investigation.
He said: “I’m not an expert on those military grade toxic agents, but if such substance is used, then the victims die immediately… right on the spot.
“But this was not the case likely, and Sergei Skripal and his daughter are alive.
“They are out of hospital now and as we’ve seen recently on TV, his daughter looks fine, so thank god everyone is alive, everyone is well.
“So to say that a military grade agent was used is not possible and if it is the case then it casts doubt on everything that has been said by the UK from the outset.”
Mr Putin was speaking to the heads of international news agencies – including Mr Marshall – on the margins of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).
The Skripals were admitted to hospital in March after being exposed to the novichok nerve agent in Salisbury.
The British Government has said it is “highly likely” the Kremlin was behind the attack, an allegation which the Russian government has repeatedly denied.
It sparked the expulsion of approximately 150 Russian diplomats from nearly 30 countries, with Russia making tit-for-tat moves with expulsions of its own.
Mr Putin said that “the most plausible” explanation could only be reached as a result of “a thorough investigation and a joint investigation”.
“From the very outset we have suggested that we should work on this investigation together but as you’re well aware Britain said no and the UK undertook its own investigation.”
The Russian president said the issue should be put to rest unless London was willing to involve Moscow in a fresh probe.
“Either we can have a thorough and objective investigation or we should just stop talking about that because they don’t add to anything other than an exacerbation of our relationships.”