Jeremy Corbyn: Russia must be given nerve agent sample so they can say if it is theirs

Posted On: 
20th March 2018

Russia must be given a sample of the nerve agent which poisoned a former double agent so they can "categorically" say whether it is belongs to them, according to Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Newcastle this weekend
Credit: 
PA

The Labour leader also said Britain must not “shoot from the hip” over the crisis and insisted he could “do business” with Vladimir Putin if he was Prime Minister.

Mr Corbyn said the UK would have no choice but to deal with Moscow despite “all fingers” pointing at its culpability.

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But in a further confusion of the Labour stance on the issue he insisted he wanted “an absolutely definitive answer” about the source of the nerve agent before he blamed the Kremlin.

Speaking to Radio Four's World At One programme, he said: "I asked the Russians be given a sample so that they can say categorically one way or the other."

The stance appears to put him at odds with his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who on Sunday said Putin "was responsible" for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury earlier this month.

Theresa May has blamed Russia for the poisoning, and unveiled a raft of sanctions against the Putin regime, including the expulsion of 23 diplomats.

But Mr Corbyn said people should wait for an independent assessment of the nerve agent from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons before they “shoot from the hip”.

"All fingers point towards Russia's involvement in this, and obviously the manufacture of the material was undertaken by the Russian state originally," he said.

"What I'm saying is the weapons were made from Russia, clearly.

"I think Russia has to be held responsible for it but there has to be an absolutely definitive answer to the question where did the nerve agent come from?"

He added: "Would I do business with Putin, sure? And I'd challenge him on human rights in Russia, challenge him on these issues and challenge him on that whole basis of that relationship.

"You have to deal with people who are in the position they are as head of state…

"Russia is a huge country that suffered more than anyone else in the Second World War and we have to recognise that there has to be a relationship with Russia.

“Robust, yes, assertive, yes, demanding yes, but there has to be a relationship."

'WORRYING'

Labour MP John Woodcock said: “It is worrying that the leader of the opposition is still asserting a different position on the critically important issue of Russian culpability to his Shadow Chancellor, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Defence Secretary.

“Labour MPs being threatened with retribution unless they toe the line cannot be sure which line they are supposed to toe. But more importantly, this needs to be resolved as it is obviously not an approach that would work if we were in charge of the country during a national security crisis.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson linked the poisoning with the domestic agenda of Mr Putin in the wake of his renewed victory in the the Russian presidential election.

"The obvious Russian-ness of the weapon was designed to send a signal to anyone pondering dissent amid the intensifying repression of Mr Putin's Russia," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

"The message is clear: we will hunt you down, we will find you and we will kill you - and though we will scornfully deny our guilt, the world will know that Russia did it."