Boris Johnson says British officials could boycott World Cup over Sergei Skripal case

Posted On: 
6th March 2018

Boris Johnson has said British officials may boycott the World Cup if Russia is found to have played any part in the hospitalisation of Sergei Skripal.

Boris Johnson takes MPs' questions on the Skripal affair.

In surprise remarks, the Foreign Secretary said it was "very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event can go ahead" should Moscow involvement be proven.

Mr Johnson also warned that Moscow could be hit with fresh sanctions as he insisted that "no attempt to take innocent life on UK soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished".

Number 10 lobby briefing on the Russian spy scandal and the Government’s new communities strategy

Diane Abbott: UK must not become 'killing field for the Russian state'

Gavin Williamson accuses Russia of 'ripping up rule book' with cyber attacks on Europe

Former double-agent Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia are in hospital after being found unconscious outside a shopping centre in the Wiltshire town of Salisbury. They are believed to have exposed to an unknown substance.

Mr Skripal has been living in the UK since 2010 after being released from a Russian prison as part of a "spy swap" organised by the FBI.

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, the Foreign Secretary said it was too early to speculate on what had happened, but admitted it had "echoes" of the case of Alexander Livtinenko, a former KGB operative who was murdered in London in 2006 in what an investigation later concluded was a Russian state hit job. 

He said the latest incident called into question the UK's ongoing relationship with Russia on the global stage.

Answering questions from MPs, Mr Johnson said: "If things turn out to be, as many members on both sides of the Hosue suspect they are, I think we will have to have a serious conversation about our engagement with Russia and for my own part, thinking ahead to the World Cu this July, I think it will be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event can go ahead in the normal way and we will certainly have to consider that." 

Sources close to the minister insisted he did not mean than the England team would not participate in the event.

Earlier, Mr Johnson had said: "It is too early to speculate as to the precise nature of the crime or attempted crime that has taken place in Salisbury yesterday but I know Members will have their suspicions and what I will say to the House is that if those suspicions prove to be well-founded we will take whatever measures we deem necessary to protect the lives of people in this country, our values and our freedoms.

"Though I am not now pointing figures...I say to governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent life on UK soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished.

"It may be that this country will continue to pay a price for our continued principle in standing up to Russia but I hope this government will have the support of members on both sides of the House in continuing to do so."

He added: "If the suspicions that I know are on both sides of the House prove to be well-founded, then it may very well be, Mr Speaker, that we are forced to look again at our sanctions regime and other measures."

The Tory head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, said the Russian government was involved in a "soft war", in which "murder is a matter of public policy".

"We are seeing a pattern here of what the KGB would refer to as ‘demoralise, destabilise, bring to crisis and nomralise’," he said.


Earlier the Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said the Skripal case brought to mind the murders of dissidents such as Mr Litvinenko and the Bulgarian activist Georgi Markov, who was killed on Waterloo Bridge in 1978.

"I don't like defaulting to a red menace analysis but we can't allow London and the Home Counties to become a kind of killing field for the Russian state and its enemies," she told the Today programme.