Russia’s President Putin has condemned those who attempted to assassinate former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter, saying that they had been told to make it look like suicide. “You just can’t get the staff any more,” he allegedly raged during an interview with top Moscow journalist Igor Blimey. “Ever since the disintegration of the Soviet Union all of the best ex-KGB operatives have gone freelance and get better pay days working for rogue states and organised crime! We’re left with the incompetent dregs!” Former KGB chief Putin has vowed to hunt down Skirpal’s assailants and punish them severely for their ineptitude. “I ask you – poisoning him a nerve agent! How were we ever going to pass that off as suicide?” Igor Blimey claims the exasperated Russian leader told him. “I distinctly remember telling them that hanging or an electric fire in the bath – I saw that in a Bond movie – would be far easier to sell to the public and press as suicide! Obviously, people would still have been suspicious, but they wouldn’t be able to point the finger directly at me!”

This isn’t the first time that the bungling of Kremlin assassins has left Mr Putin red faced, as he explained to Igor Blimey. “Let’s not forget that business of the bloke in London they poisoned by sticking radioactive isotopes in his tea,” he supposedly said. “For God’s sake, who was ever going to believe that was anything else other than an assassination? Nobody was ever going to believe that it was a health and safety issue at the place he bought the tea. Not even English cafes are so unhygienic that they have radioactive isotopes lying about in their kitchens to be confused with the milk!” The Russian leader also allegedly referenced the brutal assassination of political opponent Boris Nemtsov – who was gunned down in the street – in 2015 during the course of the interview. “Shooting him in the back multiple times! Who was ever going to believe that was suicide, or an accident?” he asked. “That was another case where I gave quite specific instructions that it should look like an accident – I thought that they’d shove him under a subway train, or arrange a fall down some stairs. Not only would it have been less suspicious, it would have been cheaper, too! Don’t these idiots realise that bullets cost money?”

According to Igor Blimey, President Putin was also critical of those behind the suspected murder of another former Russian spy in London. “You know – the one who they thought died of natural causes, but after the Skirpal fiasco they decided that he’d actually been strangled,” he supposedly told the journalist. “We almost got away with that one, but those bunglers with the nerve agent have made the British start re-examining all those old cases. Of course, if the guys doing the strangling had done their job properly, they wouldn’t have left any traces: in the old days we would have used a female agent called something like Vulva Fellatio to strangle him between her thighs – believe me, that really leaves no trace! But no, nowadays we have to outsource everything to incompetent amateurs.” The President proceeded to wax lyrical about the ‘Golden Age’ of KGB assassinations. “Back then, of course, we didn’t have to make them look like accidents – we wanted traitors and Enemies of the Revolution everywhere to know that they were not safe from retribution, no matter where they hid,” he enthused. “And we had all that great equipment, too. Poisoned blades in shoes, garotting cords hidden in watches, it was bloody wonderful!”

Putin apparently conceded, though, that even in this ‘Golden Age’ the rot was beginning to set in. “It all started in the sixties, when some of our best guys were tempted away to work in those private organisations, like SPECTRE,” he recalled. “We just couldn’t compete with te wages they were offering, let alone all the benefits, like life insurance, sick pay and private health care. Not only that, but their grandiose plans of holding the world to ransom with nuclear or biological threats were far more glamourous than our modest plans for world revolution and the global triumph of socialism and its five year agricultural plans.” Things simply got worse for the KGB n the seventies and eighties. “Private criminal organisations started springing up all over the place, tempting away our best people,” he told Igor Blimey. “We simply couldn’t match their plans for world domination which involved secret space stations, oil tankers which could swallow nuclear submarines and the like. Increasingly, we had to contact out our killings. Then after the fall of the Soviet Union, with our budgets slashed, we had no choice but to outsource everything. I know that we are meant to be embracing capitalism and all this competitive tendering nonsense, but it simply doesn’t deliver the same standards of service as when we did it all in-house.”

The Kremlin has subsequently denied that President Putin had ever spoken to Igor Blimey and maintained that the Russian leader had absolutely nothing to do with the murder of Mr Nemtsov or attacks on any other dissidents. “Obviously, if he were to assassinate someone, as a former KGB man, Mr Putin would be able to ensure that it looked like natural causes and that there was no trail liking him to the death,” a Kremlin spokesperson opined. “Not that he ever would be involved in such activities. Obviously.”