Vladimir Putin has dismissed claims Russia was involved in the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal as “nonsense”.
Speaking as he was re-elected president of the Federation, the Russian leader claimed Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia would have died instantly if they had been attacked with a nerve-agent.
He also claimed more people would have been affected as he announced he learnt about the “tragedy” from the media.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is that should it really be a warfare agent, people would have died instantly. It is an obvious fact,” he said.
“Russia does not possess such agents. We have destroyed all our chemical arsenals under control of international observers.”
However, Mr Putin did say he would be ready to work with British authorities to investigate the poisoning.
It comes after Boris Johnson accused Russia of stockpiling the nerve agent Novichok for a decade in breach of international rules.
The Foreign Secretary said he had information demonstrating that Moscow has not only continued to accrue chemical weapons, but had been exploring how they can be used for targeted assassinations for the last 10 years.
Moscow mocked the UK in the wake of the incident earlier in the month, claiming the UK’s response had fuelled an increase in support for Mr Putin in the election.
Mr Putin secured a fourth term that will see him retain office for another six years amid claims of electoral fraud.
Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are due to arrive in the UK on Monday to test samples of the chemical used in the Salisbury attack but the results are expected to take at least two weeks.
The team from The Hague will use international laboratories to carry out tests on the nerve agent.
Mr Johnson will travel to Brussels to brief foreign ministers from across the European Union at a meeting on Monday on the attempted assassinations before holding talks with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.
Labour has faced intense criticism for its response to the attack after leaving open the possibility that Russia was being framed.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Salisbury incident is “highly likely” to have been a state execution, and President Putin ”is responsible” for the attack whether directly or through negligence.
Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, suggested the nerve agent may have come from the Porton Down laboratory, which is about eight miles from Salisbury.
Sweden and the Czech Republic denied Russian suggestions they may have been the source of the nerve agent.
The national security council will meet early next week to discuss Moscow’s tit-for-tat response to the UK’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats.
Additional reporting by agencies
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