Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected British allegations that Moscow was behind the recent nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in England.
Addressing reporters on March 18 as he was headed for a landslide reelection held earlier in the day, Putin said Russia "has no such" weapon of the kind that Britain says was used in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern English city of Salisbury earlier this month.
The remarks were Putin's first on the poisoning, which has triggered a diplomatic dispute between Russia and Britain.
British officials say they have determined the toxin used was one of a series of nerve agents that were developed in the late Soviet era and are known by the collective name Novichok.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson earlier in the day told reporters that the trail of responsibility for the poisoning leads "leads inexorably to the Kremlin."
Putin told reporters that if Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, had been targeted with a military-grade nerve agent, they would have died on the spot.
The two continue to fight for their lives after they were discovered collapsed on a bench in Salisbury on March 4.
"It's complete drivel, rubbish, nonsense that somebody in Russia would allow themselves to do such a thing ahead of elections and the World Cup," Putin said, adding that "we have destroyed all chemical weapons."
Johnson told the BBC earlier on March 18 that Britain has 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."
His comments came one day ahead of planned visit to Britain by investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to begin their probe into the substance used in the poisoning.
The Russian ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, told the BBC on March 17 that Russia halted "production of any chemical agents back in 1992" and that a British research facility could have been the source of the toxin used in the poisoning of Skripal.
The poisoning prompted Britain to announce the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, with Moscow saying it would reciprocate by expelling the same number of British diplomats.
Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer who betrayed numerous Russian agents to Britain.