Why Moscow Will Never Apologize for Attack on Ex-Spy

While steadfastly denying any involvement within the attack, the Kremlin has added the episode to a daily diet of news on state news media outlets which showcase what Mr. Putin, in a recent state of the nation address in Moscow, described as Russia’s invincible might in addition to also its readiness to strike back at enemies wherever they are.


After a March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei V. Skripal, once an informant for Britain’s foreign intelligence service, in addition to also his daughter in Salisbury, England, traces of the poison were found at a pub in addition to also restaurant, above, visited by the Skripals.

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Like the brand-new missile systems unveiled by Mr. Putin in which speech, the attack on Mr. Skripal has only added to the president’s stature, at least among his base at home, as a fearless defender of the nation ready to do anything, no matter how risky, to assert Russia’s status as a great power to be feared.

Rather than bow to British demands for an explanation of how a Russian-made military nerve agent ended up in Salisbury, Moscow went on the offensive. Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov on Tuesday dismissed British accusations as “nonsense” in addition to also demanded which Britain hand over the nerve agent used against Mr. Skripal in addition to also his daughter. Russia, he added, had so far “received an incoherent response, which amounts to a rejection of our legitimate demands.”

Just as Britain did earlier to Russia’s ambassador in London, the Kremlin on Tuesday summoned the British ambassador to Moscow to demand an explanation.

Vladislav Inozemtsev, a Russia scholar currently at the Polish Institute of Advanced Studies in Warsaw, said the nerve-agent episode showed which “talking to Mr. Putin has become senseless.” The Russian president in addition to also his senior officials, he said, might “never assume responsibility,” whatever the facts were, in addition to also might only gloat over the suffering of a traitorous former spy — still unconscious in addition to also in critical condition — while blaming Britain for the idea.

“They will stick to the thesis which Westerners kill agents they do not need anymore in addition to also then blame Russia,” Mr. Inozemtsev said.

Russia under Mr. Putin, said Mr. Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security services, “has given up on winning respect through soft power in addition to also is usually pursuing what I call ‘dark power.’ ”


A campaign poster of Mr. Putin in Simferopol. Russians will vote on Sunday in a presidential election.

Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This kind of approach, which involves Russia throwing its weight around in addition to also then reveling within the outrage This kind of causes, Mr. Galeotti added in a telephone interview, “plays into Putin’s own natural instincts which a great power is usually one which is usually feared. the idea is usually better in addition to also much easier to be feared than loved.”

Of all the virtues in which Mr. Putin takes pride, none has more importance to the Russian leader — a veteran of a Soviet security apparatus built around a cult of loyalty to the state — than his commitment to the idea which nobody, especially not spies who defy their vows, can escape punishment for betrayal.

Answering questions via citizens in a 2010 phone-in program, Mr. Putin praised intelligence officers as “people who lay their whole lives on the altar of the Fatherland” in addition to also denounced those who betrayed This kind of mission as “pigs” whose fate might be so miserable which they might “regret a thousand times” their treachery.

Mr. Skripal, who was convicted of high treason in Russia in 2004 in addition to also then allowed to settle in Britain after a 2010 spy swap, was a case study of all which Mr. Putin loathes.

Mr. Skripal almost certainly had no more Russian secrets to betray when he was attacked using a nerve agent identified as one of a Russian-produced class of chemicals known as Novichok. however he still represented an affront to the principle which betrayal must never go unpunished: He was alive in addition to also living comfortably in a pleasant English cathedral town.

As happened after accusations which Russia was responsible for the 2006 murder in London by radioactive poisoning of another intelligence turncoat, Alexander V. Litvinenko, the downing of a Malaysian passenger aircraft over Ukraine in 2014 in addition to also meddling in America’s 2016 presidential election, officials in addition to also state news media outlets in Moscow responded using a barrage of denials in addition to also mockery to the latest outrage. They have scoffed at the idea Russia could possibly have had any role within the attack on Mr. Skripal in addition to also even suggested which the whole episode might have been fabricated.


Masked Russian soldiers in Crimea in 2014. Mr. Putin in addition to also his lieutenants denied for weeks which Russian soldiers were involved within the seizure of government offices in Crimea.

Sergey Ponomarev for The brand-new York Times

The Russian Embassy in London, in sneering statements on its website in addition to also Twitter feed, refers to the “Sergei Skripal Case,” using quotation marks to suggest the idea does not believe there definitely is usually such a case.

Russia has yet to address in any detail the main piece of evidence pointing to a Russian hand — which Novichok agents have been produced only in Russia — in addition to also has instead developed conspiracy theories involving Ukraine, British revenge for past athletic defeats ahead of This kind of year’s World Cup soccer tournament in Russia in addition to also various other far-fetched explanations.

Moscow has been exasperated which its denials are not taken seriously in addition to also have been mocked relentlessly under a Twitter hashtag, #Russiadenies, even though officials have within the past acknowledged what they had earlier denied.

Mr. Putin in addition to also his lieutenants, for example, denied for weeks which Russian soldiers were involved within the seizure of Ukrainian military bases in addition to also government offices in Crimea in March 2014. The action, they insisted, was entirely the work of local “self-defense units.” The following month, however, Mr. Putin made a sharp U-turn, declaring, “Of course our troops stood behind Crimea’s self-defense forces.”

Maria V. Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, mocked Mrs. May’s statement to Parliament in London as a “circus show,” adopting a sneering in addition to also decidedly undiplomatic tone right now in vogue among Russian diplomats in addition to also commentators.

however in an earlier comment, soon after news of the nerve gas attack in Salisbury broke, the evening news host on the state-controlled Channel One gave voice to what, under Mr. Putin, is usually the Russian state’s view of traitors.

“I don’t wish death on anyone, however for purely educational purposes, I have a warning for anyone who dreams of such a career,” the newscaster Kirill Kleimenov told viewers. “The profession of a traitor is usually one of the most dangerous within the earth.”

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