WATCH John McDonnell: Labour MPs should boycott Russia Today after Sergei Skripal poisoning
John McDonnell today said Labour politicians should no longer appear on Russia Today in the wake of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal.
Senior Labour figures, including Jeremy Corbyn, have previously come under fire for agreeing to go on the Kremlin-backed broadcaster.
But with tensions between London and Moscow under strain over allegations that Russia attacked the former double agent on UK soil, the Shadow Chancellor said he and his party needed to “take a step back”.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he would no longer appear on the channel and would urge his colleagues to do the same.
The move comes after Russia Today peddled the claim Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia may have simply taken a drug overdose.
“I have been looking overnight at what’s happening in terms of changes in coverage on Russian television in particular and I think we have to step back now,” Mr McDonnell said.
He added: “I can understand why people have up until now because we have treated it like any other television station…
“We try to be fair and as long as they abide by journalistic standards which are objective, fine.
“But it looks as though they have gone beyond that line. So, we’ll be having that discussion.”
The move is embarrassing for Mr Corbyn, who in 2011 told a Twitter user: "Try Russia Today. Free of Royal Wedding and more objective on Libya than most."
Mr Skripal and Yulia remain in hospital after being subject to the chemical attack in Salisbury last weekend.
Theresa May has said if the Russian state is implicated in the incident the UK will take the “necessary action” in response.
Elsewhere on the Andrew Marr show, the wife of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in London in 2006 in similar circumstances, hit out at the Prime Minister.
Marina Litvinenko read out a letter she received from Mrs May - who was then Home Secretary - after the inquiry into her husband's death.
“I am clear that we must continue to pursue justice for your husband’s killing and we will take every step to protect the UK and its people from such crime ever being repeated,” the letter read.
Witheringly, Ms Litvinenko added: “Unfortunately it happened again, it means something was not done and a lesson… was not learned.”
Asked whether Russia took the protection of its citizens on UK soil seriously, she said it was viewed as a "big joke".
But speaking on the same show, Chancellor Philip Hammond shot back: "Nobody is laughing at us. This is a very serious investigation"