The Russian state's propaganda machine was at full throttle long before Britain demanded to know why a nerve agent manufactured in the country was used in an attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
From its Ministry of Foreign Affairs late on Monday came a copy of one of this newspaper's reports on the dubious legitimacy of the nation hosting this summer's World Cup, with a crude 'False Information' stamp printed across it.
The Ministry complained of 'a full-scale Western media campaign to discredit Russia and undermine its credibility as the host of this sporting event'.
Theresa May said it was 'highly likely' that Russia was responsible for a spy attack in Salisbury
It stated that: 'The British... cannot forgive Russia the fact that it was our country that won the right to host the World Cup in a fair fight.'
The effrontery would have been breathtaking were it not so utterly predictable.
The cold and uncomfortable facts where Russia's so-called 'fair fight' is concerned are that the World Cup — a glittering propaganda opportunity for Putin's presidential election year — was almost certainly secured through bribes and backhanders. And that the country has frustrated any efforts to get to the truth.
FIFA investigated all the 2018 and 2022 bids yet Russia was the only country not to co-operate.
It told the governing body's investigators that its 2018 bid team's computers had been 'destroyed'. They had 'rented the equipment,' Russia 2018's organising committee chief, Alexey Sorokin, claimed.
'We had to give it back. Then it went back. We don't even know where it went.' This was a 'dog-ate-my-homework' explanation like no other.
The World Cup was almost certainly secured by Moscow through bribes and backhanders
Neither were emails made available to investigators. Russia claimed Google had not responded to requests for access to old Gmail accounts. FIFA's lawyer Michael Garcia was banned from travelling to Russia to undertake the investigation. Draw your own conclusions.
The stench emanating from Russia is far fouler than that, though, because of the scandal two years ago which unequivocally should have removed the faintest prospect of Russia hosting the World Cup: the state-sponsored doping programme which was laid bare by Professor Richard McLaren.
McLaren's 2016 report for the World Anti-Doping Agency demonstrated the lengths Russia went to in its desperate striving for national honour at Russia's 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, on which Putin had lavished £36billion for new facilities.
McLaren revealed how the nation's intelligence services worked through the night to manipulate urine samples of doped Winter Olympics competitors — just so the country could improve on its pathetically poor showing at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
He exposed an eagerness to cheat across all platforms: the feeding of a three-drug cocktail of banned substances, mixed with liquor, to at least 14 cross-country skiers, bobsledders, runners, jumpers, throwers, footballers — a practice subsequently obscured with the help of the Russian intelligence services.
Richard McLaren's report should have removed any prospect of Russia hosting the World Cup
The highly orchestrated cheating, which we now know also helped Russian athletes at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in Beijing and London, came straight from the pages of a spy novel.
Working at night in a shadow 'testing laboratory' — lit by a single lamp — the perpetrators broke into supposedly tamper-proof urine bottles.
They replaced samples with clean urine and passed them to co-conspirators through a hand-sized hole in the wall, to be ready for testing the next day.
Grigory Rodchenkov, director of that laboratory, was forced to resign by Russian officials when it first became clear that Russian track and field athletes had cheated. He turned informer, though he left Russia for the West Coast of the United States in fear for his life.
We now know he was wise to do so. Two of his close colleagues from Russia's so-called 'anti-doping' agency RUSADA — Nikita Kamayev and Vyacheslav Sinev — died unexpectedly within weeks of each other.
Kamayev apparently had a heart attack at home after feeling chest pain while cross-country skiing. This is what any Russian predisposed to describe that cocktail of drugs has been up against.
The highly orchestrated cheating at the Olympics came straight from the pages of a spy novel
In the face of such malignity, the nation still screams 'conspiracy'. Russian competitors were banned from competition at the Rio 2016 Olympics, last year's athletics World Championships and last month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
But a council meeting of the IAAF, athletics' world governing body, heard last week that Russia had 'still not acknowledged the institutional doping scheme [that was] uncovered' and that there can be 'no comfort it will not be repeated'.
The IAAF said it could soon consider banning Russia from the sport indefinitely.
It was also last week that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko was stripped of all governmental responsibility for the World Cup.
This, after Rodchenko told the Associated Press that Mutko had ordered him to 'avoid any scandal' relating to Russian football players by making them immune from doping-control tests. The footballers' success is necessary in Putin's quest for the nationalistic fervour which sustains his presidency.
This is a World Cup host country like no other in the modern era. Dozens of Sportsmail's contacts have informed us not to call them from hotel rooms or on their mobile phones while in the country, for fear calls are monitored.
The Russia team's success is necessary in Vladimir Putin's quest to sustain his presidency
It is a country that produced the thugs who beat England fans within an inch of their lives at the European Championship in Marseilles two years ago.
Sources have told Sportsmail that one of those on the receiving end was sitting quietly with friends — no flag of St George, no chanting about the England football team — when he saw the Russians arriving, got up from his seat and made to leave.
The man had his feet kicked from underneath him. Prostrate on the pavement, he was then put into a coma by repeated kicking to the head by about five Russians.
It was an attack that Putin later joked about. 'I don't know how 200 Russian fans managed to crush several thousand English,' he said to applause, at an economic forum in St Petersburg a few days after the attack.
Football would not award North Korea or Zimbabwe a World Cup.
Yet it hands it to a nation reeking of sleaze, which now also has the attempted murder by nerve agent of a national on British soil to explain.
As ever, there will be no answer. And that is why the demand for a boycott of June's World Cup is entirely credible.
Only when Russia's exclusion from the sporting realm is absolute might Russia and Putin begin to see that sport towers above them and their vanity. It cannot be bought and used for their own vainglorious ends.
Russian thugs beat England fans within an inch of their lives at the European Championships