Putin calls traitors 'pigs' who will rot
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called agents who betray Russia pigs and scum Thursday while denying that Moscow would ever stage operations to liquidate espionage defectors abroad.
The former foreign intelligence officer said double agents like the one who this year exposed a major Russian spy ring in the United States deserved a cruel fate.
"Just think about it. A person gives his entire life to serving his motherland," Putin told a marathon question-and-answer session that was broadcast live on state TV.
"And then along comes some scum who betrays them. How is he going to live with this for the rest of his life? How will he look into his children's eyes? That pig," Putin said in characteristically strong language.
"They will have to hide their whole lives... People who choose a fate like that will regret it a thousand times over."
Putin also conceded that Moscow used to "liquidate" double agents during Soviet times.
But he stressed that Russia never followed this practice and would never go after a traitor in a foreign land.
"It is no secret that in Soviet times, in Stalinist times, there were services ... who did this when necessary: they liquidated traitors. But these divisions were disbanded a long time ago," Putin added.
"The Russian secret services do not use such means. As for the traitors, they will rot on their own."
The Kommersant business daily quoted an intelligence source as saying in November that Russia had already sent a secret hit-man to the United States to eliminate the guilty double agent.
The "sleeper cell" exposure humiliated Russian intelligence and resulted in an expulsion of 10 Moscow agents in exchange for just four convicted spies for the West.
Although never an agent himself, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the foreign spy service on Wednesday to be more careful in its work, particularly pointing to the dangers of WikiLeaks-style scandals.
© 2010 AFP