In a newly released Russian documentary the President, who once said that “traitors always end in a bad way”, has again outlined his dislike for treachery, insisting that “not everything” can be forgiven – in particular “betrayal”.
His latest remarks will spark fears that he will not back down in the escalating row over poisoned double agent Sergei Skripal, who was accused of “high treason” in Russia before moving to Britain in 2010 as part of a spy swap.
Mr Skripal, who along with his daughter Yulia remain in a critical condition in hospital following a nerve agent attack in Salisbury on March 4, was accused of working for MI6 over several years, in particular disclosing the names of many Russian agents working in Europe.
Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning. Theresa May has suggested either Moscow is behind the attack or has lost control of its nerve agent stock.
Experts have warned Britain not to expect an apology from Russia, and warned the row could reinforce Mr Putin’s thoughts that Russia is under constant threat from enemies outside the border.
The Prime Minister said the UK would expel 23 Russian diplomats after Russia failed to explain before the midnight deadline on how one of its nerve agents, Novichok, was used in the poisoning incident.
Mark Galeotti, a Russian expert at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, told the New York Times: “Russia is just too formidable and fearsome to be ignored. This is all about demonstrating that Russia not only has capacity to act but the will to act too.”
Business FM radio analyst Georgy Bovt said: “Moscow has the moral right to break off diplomatic relations” with London “in the absence of proof” of Russian implication into the poisoning of Mr Skripal.
Russian scholar Vladislav Inozemtsev added the nerve agent incident showed “talking to Mr Putin has become senseless” and that the Russian President and his senior officials would “never assume responsibility”, whatever the facts are.
Mrs May has said the Russian government’s involvement was “highly likely” due to the use of Novichok, but many are backing alternative hypotheses.
Vladislav Dyatlov, a 46-year-old lawyer, told the Daily Mail: “The British secret services are behind the poisoning, given the ideal way it was carried out using a substance presumed to have come from Russia.”
After the identities of Mr Skripal and his daughter were revealed, Krill Kleimenov, a presenter on TV channel Pierviy Kanal, sarcastically said “being a traitor is one of the most dangerous professions in the world”.
Mr Kleimenov added “alcohol, drugs, stress, depression are inevitable ills linked to the profession of traitor, which can provoke heart attacks, brain haemorrhage, traffic accidents or even suicide”.
One of the most high profile cases around the suspicious death of a Russian in Britain was that of former FSB secret service operative Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, who was poisoned when his tea was laced with highly radioactive poloniumn 210 at a hotel in Mayfair, Central London.