Jeremy Corbyn says British troops are 'escalating tensions' in eastern Europe
British troops stationed in eastern Europe are helping to "escalate tensions" between Russia and the West, according to Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour leader's spokesman also suggested that Mr Corbyn would not back a military response by Nato if Russia invades Estonia - where hundreds of UK troops are currently stationed.
The spokesman called for a "ratcheting down" of tensions between Russia and the West, as relations continue to deteriorate.
Downing Street today launched an outspoken attack on Vladimir Putin's record in office, just a day after Boris Johnson accused Moscow of conducting "dirty tricks" against Britain and America.
Mr Corbyn's spokesman today said there are "serious issues on both sides" and called for negotiations to reach a settlement both in eastern Europe and in the Middle East.
He said: "Jeremy has said repeatedly that he has lots of criticisms of the Russian government, both in relation to what has happened in the Middle East and domestically. But what we don't want to see is a ratcheting up of tensions between Russia and the West, as has been taking place.
"We want to see an engagement with Russia, on a critical basis but on a serious basis. There are obviously serious issues on both sides and Jeremy has repeatedly condemned human rights issues in Russia as well as issues surrounding its intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere, but it's crucial from Jeremy's point of view that that not be used to ratchet up tensions, but be the basis for serious engagement to reduce tensions, especially military tensions, in eastern Europe."
He added: "We want talks and engagement to wind down military tensions, particularly on the Russian/Nato border and in the Middle East."
Asked specifically whether Mr Corbyn supported the Government's decision to send 800 troops to Estonia as part of a Nato task force, he said: "Jeremy has expressed concerns about that being one of the escalations of tensions that have taken place."
The spokesman also refused to say whether Mr Corbyn would back military action if Estonia - which is a Nato member - was invaded by Russia.
He said: "Article 5 (of the Nato treaty) means that if there is an attack on another Nato state there has to be a response by Nato members, it doesn't define what that response should be.
"In practice if you see from the wording of the treaty, that can be a whole range of things. But what we're looking for is a reduction of tension and a negotiated engagement."
Speaking in November, Mr Corbyn warned of a new cold war unless the border between eastern Europe and Russia was "demilitarised".
A row broke out in October after Mr Corbyn's spokesman said focusing on the civilian deaths caused by Russian bombing in Syria "diverts attention from other atrocities" taking place in the war-torn country.
The spokesman said independent observers had found that the US-led coalition in the country - which includes Britain - had also been responsible for the killing of many innocent people.
He also suggested that anti-war campaigners should protest outside the American embassy as well as the Russian one to voice their anger about the conflict.