Jeremy Corbyn says Russia 'appears to be' responsible for Salisbury nerve agent attack

Posted On: 
15th March 2018

Jeremy Corbyn has said Russia "appears to be responsible" for the nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy in Salisbury.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to explicitly blame Russia yesterday
PA Images

In a clear hardening of his tone, the Labour leader said "all the evidence points towards" either the Russian state or a "rogue element" being behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

However, he still stopped short of explicitly blaming the Kremlin, as his Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry have both done.

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Ms Griffith said: "This is a very sophisticated nerve agent and [we accept] that Russia is responsible."

Mr Corbyn sparked anger among MPs, including on his own backbenches, yesterday when he pointedly refused to lay the blame for the attack with Moscow.

His spokesman later questioned the validity of the UK's own intelligence-gathering prior to the Iraq war, and suggested another former Soviet Union state may in fact be responsible.

Speaking to Sky News today, the Labour leader defended his response to the crisis.

He said: "I was extremely definite yesterday that I totally condemn this attack. The perpetrators must be brought to justice.

"The International Chemical Weapons Convention must be invoked and the source of this weapon - which appears to be Russia, either from the state or from a rogue element from the state - must be brought to justice as a result of it.

"This is a very serious issue and it must be dealt with. I made that very clear yesterday.

"The evidence points towards Russia on this. Therefore, the responsibility must be borne upon those who made the weapon, those who brought the weapon into the country and those that used the weapon.

"What I was asking was questions about the identity of the weapon, questions about the reference to the weapons convention and also the support of other allies in this. Those are the sorts of questions I was asking - that's what oppositions are there for."

In a joint-statement, the leaders of America, Germany and France have joined Theresa May in blaming Russia for the Salisbury attack.

They said: "We share the UK assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia´s failure to address the legitimate request by the UK government further underlines its responsibility."