From Russia with laughter

Russia's ambassador has made jokes throughout an hour-long press conference where he denied having spies in Australia.

A jovial ambassador Grigory Logvinov has denied Russia has spies in Australia.

A jovial ambassador Grigory Logvinov has denied Russia has spies in Australia.

In the ageing Russian embassy in Canberra, Grigory Logvinov told reporters the two diplomats Australia is expelling aren't intelligence agents.

"They are absolutely legal, career diplomats," he said on Wednesday morning.

Mr Logvinov rejected any suggestions there were Russian spies working in his embassy. Asked how many would be left in Australia after the two "undeclared intelligence agents" were expelled.

"Zero minus zero is still zero," he said.

The jovial ambassador continued to crack gags throughout an hour-long grilling, that at times got heated.

He alleged a grand conspiracy between western nations to discredit Russia, and suggested it started when the country became more independent following the 1990s.

"If the west would follow this line, I'm afraid we will be deeply in a Cold War situation," he said.

Mr Logvinov demanded to see evidence from Britain that Russia was behind the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

But then Mr Logvinov accused Australian spies of bad behaviour in 2016 and 2017 - without providing any evidence.

"We have a bad history of improper behaviour of Australian authorities," he said.

Would he provide any details?

"Nope."

On the downing of MH17, the interference in western elections and the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, Mr Logvinov again demanded to see the evidence of Russia's involvement.

Photographs of people working at the Russian embassy were published in newspapers, but Mr Logvinov laughed as he said they were technicians, drivers, and in one case, the wife of the embassy cook.

On the Skripal case that reignited the international push back against Russia, the ambassador said there was no reason for Russia to be interested in the double agent.

"He was sentenced, he served his sentence, he was free," Mr Logvinov said.

"He's of no interest to Russia any more."

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