Vladimir Putin has dismissed claims that Russia was behind the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal as “nonsense”.
The Russian president said Moscow was ready to cooperate with the British government on the investigation into the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
In his first public comments about the poisoning, he called the attack on Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia a “tragedy”.
But he added that if the British claim was true that they had been poisoned by Soviet-designed Novichok, the victims would have died instantly.
“The first thing I thought was that if it was a real poison, they would have just died. They wouldn’t be in hospital,” Mr Putin said.
“The second thing – Russia doesn’t have any such poisons. We destroyed all our chemical weapons in front of international observers. We were the first to do it.
“We’re ready to work together. We need the other party to do that as well, although we haven’t seen any signs of that.
“Of course any person with any brains understands that it’s complete nonsense that Russia would carry out that kind of attack just before an election and the World Cup in football. It’s ridiculous.”
Mr Putin was speaking after securing a fourth term as Russian president following a landslide victory in which he secured more than 70% of the vote.
Boris Johnson has said it was “overwhelmingly likely” Mr Putin ordered the attack on Mr Skripal and accused Russia of “stockpiling” the deadly novichok over the last decade.
The Foreign Secretary said: “We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling novichok.”
Scientists from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are due to arrive in London on Monday as part of the investigation into the poisoning on March 4.
The experts will take samples and send them to “reputable international laboratories”, Mr Johnson said.
The results are expected to take at least two weeks.
Authorities are investigating whether the nerve agent used in the attack was administered via the ventilation system in Russian Mr Skripal’s car, Sky reports.