Putin tells oligarchs to 'stay home and keep their money in Russia' in wake of Abramovich visa row with Britain and insists he wants to be part of Skripal assassination investigation
Vladimir Putin has told Russian billionaires to stay in their homeland along with their money in the wake of the Roman Abramovich visa row.
The Russian President said tycoons were being persecuted in countries like Britain as he spoke during his live televised annual phone-in with the Russian public.
Answering a question about visa problems experienced by billionaire Roman Abramovich in Britain, he said he had advised business people to keep their assets inside Russia.
Pressure on Russian businessmen was undermining trust in Western countries, he added.
He also used the phone-in session to address the case of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia - insisting he wanted Moscow to be part of the assassination probe.
But the PM's official spokeswoman today hit back at the Kremlin - saying only Russia had the 'technical means and operational experience' to carry out the murder attempt.
British authorities blamed Russia for the March poisoning with a Soviet-designed nerve agent dubbed Novichok.
But Putin does not think that the pair were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent, because they survived the attack.
Asked about the poisoning during his annual call-in show on Thursday, Putin said he did not want to comment on the cause of their illness and said Russia was still seeking consular access to both of them and to their case files.
He said: 'If as Britain insists a military chemical agent was used against these people, they would have died within second or minutes, on the spot.
'Thank God, this did not happen.
Clearly we are dealing with something other than a military agent.'
'We would like to be given access to our citizens, to Yulia, and we would like to have the opportunity to take part fully in the investigation.'
A spokeswoman for Theresa May said:
‘The use of a nerve agent on British soil is yet another example of Russia’s attempts to act with impunity outside international rules.
‘We gave Russia every opportunity to explain its actions on Salisbury.
Instead, Russia has again shown its contempt for diplomacy.
‘It has responded with sarcasm, disdain and a blatant disinformation campaign.
This includes more than 30 different false narratives so far from the Kremlin and state controlled media.
‘Only the Russian state has the technical means, operational experience.’
Then last month, there were reports that Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, was experiencing delays in the processing of his request for a new British visa.
The Premier League outfit later announced they had shelved plans for a new 60,000-seater stadium in west London due to an 'unfavourable investment climate'.
The move raised questions about Abramovich's commitment to the club into which he has poured hundreds of millions of pounds.
Israel's ambassador to Russia Gary Koren then confirmed the businessman had received Israeli citizenship and was now living there.
Addressing the matter in his phone-in today, Putin said:
'I warned them that this situation, which we see today, could develop.
'I ... recommended at the time that our business keep its capital in Russia, in the motherland,' said Putin.
'Who is going to help them abroad? They are just persecuted there.
Conditions are created to make their work impossible.'