Vladimir Putin has previously addressed the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, but never quite like this. When asked on Wednesday about sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of the attack, Putin dismissed the ex-spy as "just a scumbag" who turned on his country, reports the AP. "I see that some of your colleagues are pushing the theory that Mr. Skripal was almost some kind of human rights activist," Putin said while at a Moscow energy forum, per Reuters. "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."
The comments come a day after a report from the Guardian suggesting Skripal didn't initially believe his former country could have turned on him. That tidbit comes via a book by BBC journalist Mark Urban out this week. In The Skripal Files, Urban writes that after waking from a five-week coma, Skripal was at first reluctant to believe the Russian government tried to kill him. The Guardian has much more on Urban's book, which incorporates a series of meetings he had with Skripal in the summer of 2017, well before Skripal was poisoned with novichok. Urban found Skripal parroted "the Kremlin line in many matters," including those related to Crimea and the Ukraine, but reportedly expressed a reluctance to be quoted, saying, "we are afraid of Putin." (An investigative group says it has unmasked the identity of one of the suspects in Skripal's poisoning.)