Corbyn refuses to condemn Russian Federation over spy attack

PA Wire  PA Images

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"Either this was a direct attack by the Russian state against our country or conceivably the country could have lost control of the military grade nerve agent". 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.

The PM also announced no ministers or the Royal Family will attend the Fifa World Cup in Russian Federation later this year.

The Labour leader described the Salisbury attack as an "appalling act of violence", but urged the Government to ensure its response is "decisive, proportionate and based on clear evidence". Instead he queried whether the United Kingdom had met its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention in allowing Russian Federation access to a sample of the nerve agent - parroting comments made by Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday, which had already been dismissed by the government.

At one point, Iain became so frustrated he was literally left with his head on his hands.

Mr Corbyn also called on Theresa May to maintain "robust dialogue" with Russian Federation, despite her announcement that high-level bilateral contacts are to be suspended.

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In a briefing to journalists following the session, a spokesperson for Corbyn said the Labour leader's desire for evidence before apportioning culpability to Russian Federation stemmed from the UK's history of weapons of mass destruction intelligence not being accurate, a clear reference to the erroneous, propagandistic claims of Baghdad's chemical weapons capabilities spread by the British government, media and intelligence services, in the leadup to the 2003 US/UK-led invasion of Iraq.

"Whoever carried out the attack is responsible for a heinous and reckless attack in a civilian area", he told reporters after the Commons debate.

After the Labour leader refused to blame Moscow in the Commons, his spokesman said ministers' use of intelligence on Iraq's weapons programmes in 2003 meant accepting the Government's position on Russian Federation now is "problematic".

But the spokesman said such moves risk starting a "tit for tat" response and that measures to "hit them in the pocket" would be more effective.

The Foreign Office said: "The UK has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to update Council members on the investigation into the nerve agent attack in Salisbury".

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He also suggested the alleged substance used to attack Skripal, "Novichok", could've ended up in the hands of many state and non-state actors following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and could not be said to be a "Russian" weapon.

This clearly presents Labour moderates with a dilemma.

There were also signs of uneasiness within Mr Corbyn's frontbench team.

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She said Russia's actions must be met with "unequivocal condemnation", while long-time Corbyn critic John Woodcock said: "This is a day for the House to speak as one for the nation, and (Ms May) will be reassured to hear that a clear majority of Labour MPs, alongside the leaders of every other party, support the firm stance which she is taking".

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