January 22, 2020

Corbyn refuses to condemn Russia over spy attack

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to condemn Russia over the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, following Theresa May's claim that it was "attempted murder" conducted on behalf of the Russian state.

Today the Prime Minister unveiled a number of measures in retaliation against the attack, which took place in Salisbury earlier this month. They include expelling 23 diplomats, who she claimed were in fact "undeclared intelligence agents", and a partial boycott of the World Cup, meaning no ministers or members of the Royal Family will attend this summer.

But while Corbyn condemned the act, he skirted from blaming the Russian state. Instead he queried whether the UK had met its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention in allowing Russia access to a sample of the nerve agent – parroting comments made by Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday.

The leader of the opposition added that it was "a matter of huge regret" that the UK diplomatic capacity had been stripped back over the past five years.

He told MPs "our response must be decisive and proportionate and based on clear evidence".

Numerous Labour backbenchers offered the Prime Minister their support and condemned Russia – including Chris Bryant, Hilary Benn, Margaret Hodge, Yvette Cooper, Ben Bradshaw and Pat McFadden during the course of a two-hour debate in the Commons.

But Corbyn's spokesman later insisted there was still a lack of evidence categorically linking Russia with the attack.

He noted that there was a "history" of "problematic" intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, he said – alluding to the claims that led to the invasion of Iraq.

The spokesman said: "Clearly whoever carried out the attack is responsible for what was a completely heinous and reckless act."

He echoed comments made by Corbyn that the agent could have fallen into a third party's hands, saying “The break up of the Soviet state led to all sorts of material ending up in random hands".

Original Article

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