“It is quite extraordinary” in view of the weight of evidence to continue to deny the “likelihood of Russian involvement” in Salisbury poisoning – Boris Johnson tells #Marr https://t.co/2F6eDpYWeF pic.twitter.com/6efkdkg6gA
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) April 15, 2018
He says the Russians are “demented” for claiming Britain did it…
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) April 15, 2018
Not sure who else he thinks it could’ve been…
He also isn’t convinced the Assad regime was responsible for the Douma gas attack either, saying that Assad “or any other group” that carried it out must be confronted with evidence.
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) April 15, 2018
There’s a theme here…
Last month Guido reported on how Russophile former Tory minister Greg Barker was working for Oleg Deripaska as chairman of En+ Group. Well, since then Deripaska was whacked with sanctions by President Trump and accused by the US of “benefiting from the Putin regime and playing a key role in advancing Russia’s malign activities”. Bad news for Barker’s En+, whose shares plummeted 22% on Friday and fell another 17% today.
Barker is one Tory who knows sanctions against Russian wrong ‘uns work…
“Эти инциденты все сильнее и сильнее подрывают доверие к Британии”.
Член парламента Великобритании Крис Уильямсон разоблачает британское правительство в отношении дела Скрипаля.
Видео: ТАСС/Ruptly pic.twitter.com/iv0hGnwUCw
— ТАСС (@tass_agency) April 5, 2018
Chris Williamson’s Russia Today interview is being broadcast on the Russian state news agency TASS this evening, complete with Russian subtitles. He argues the UK government is using the Skripal attack to distract from Brexit, which is literally a Kremlin line to take. Meanwhile Corbyn Twitter outrider Aaron Bastani says it could have been done by Israel:
Is it a full moon?
Got to hand it to this government, who true to form have managed to turn the one positive narrative they’ve had in months into a total omnishambles. This incorrect FCO tweet from two weeks ago claiming Porton Down experts had determined the Novichok was made in Russia has been deleted. Whichever FCO mandarin who tried to disappear this tweet to cover up their incompetence has properly landed everyone else in it.
Screengrab via Paul Waugh
Russia was clearly responsible for the attack on the Skripals – as the Porton Down scientist said yesterday it had to be a state actor – and the intelligence obviously points to Russia. Yet Gary Aitkenhead’s interview was a total PR disaster, giving out the misleading top line that the government can’t be sure it was Russia. Why did the MoD let this broadcast novice in front of the cameras?
Just when May had succeeded in getting the international community on board – one of her best achievements to date – they have conjured doubt where there should be none. Russia is already taking full advantage, gleefully tweeting out the deleted FCO screengrab and making out the British government lied. Corbynistas are echoing the conspiratorial Kremlin line and claiming this proves Seumas and Corbyn were right all along. All the grown ups in Whitehall are on holiday as the UK’s position internationally becomes needlessly undermined. What a mess.
This has to be one of the most major foreign policy coups in years:
- Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats from the US
- Germany and France to deport four Russian diplomats each
- Total of 14 EU Member States agree to expel Russian diplomats
- Ukraine is expelling 13 Russian diplomats
- Czech Republic – 3
- Lithuania – 3
- Latvia – 1
- Poland – 4
One of the biggest wins of the May premiership. And makes a mockery of those claims the UK would be isolated internationally if we voted to Leave the EU. What will all those Boris-haters in the media have to say about this huge FCO diplomatic success?
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) March 22, 2018
“I’m not sure that the language used by some of our ministers is particularly helpful or sensible,” says Jezza. Echoing Ambassador Yakovenko…
Jeremy Corbyn has told Wato: “Would I do business with Putin? Sure.” and repeated his call to give Russia a sample of the Novichok used on the Skripals. He again stopped short of blaming the Kremlin. When Russia say it isn’t their Novichok, is Corbyn going to believe them?
Former Kremlin adviser and all-round nutjob Alexander Nekrassov tells Good Morning Britain “Jeremy Corbyn was right”. He even says there is no evidence the Skripals were even attacked. As if further proof were needed that Jezza and Seumas are Russia’s not-very useful idiots…
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) March 16, 2018
“We think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK.”
Over to you Seumas…
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) 15 March 2018
Keir Starmer is the most senior Shadow Cabinet minister so far to publicly abandon Jeremy Corbyn over his position on Russia. On Question Time last night Starmer said the attack should be “condemned by all of us without reservation” and that Russia was responsible – “no ifs, no buts”. Starmer strongly backed the government and Theresa May…
Starmer’s intervention followed the publication of an article in the Guardian last night by Jezza in which he doubled down on his previous statements to the Commons. In the piece he again directly refused to blame Russia for the attack. Instead he suggested the government had taken a “McCarthyite” stance. Jezza wrote:
“This horrific event demands first of all the most thorough and painstaking criminal investigation, conducted by our police and security services. To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security.”
The article came as a Sky Data poll found just 18% of people thought Corbyn was doing a good job over the Russia crisis. Will this damaging week move the polls?
Seumas Milne defended the Kremlin in his Guardian column after the assassination of a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin which the deceased man’s colleagues and family said was politically motivated. In Feburary 2015 opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered while walking near the Kremlin with his girlfriend. Yeltsin’s former Deputy Prime Minister was shot six times with a 9mm pistol. A month later Milne wrote:
“The Russian president has, of course, been blamed for the killing, though that makes little sense. Nemtsov was a marginal figure whose role in the “catastroika” of the 1990s scarcely endeared him to ordinary Russians. Responsibility for an outrage that exposed the lack of security in the heart of Moscow and was certain to damage the president hardly seems likely to lie with Putin or his supporters.”
This was not the conclusion of the deceased Nemtsov’s colleagues and family. Nemtsov’s friend and fellow opposition activist Leonid Martynyuk said : “I am certain that the Russian government is behind the murder of Nemtsov.” World chess champion and Putin critic Gary Kasparov told reporters: “Putin must be held responsible for the murder of Boris.” Politico, and other international outlets ran pieces carrying claims that the murder was politically motivated.
Last summer five men were jailed for the murder after a controversial trial. The Nemtsov’s family lawyer told journalists:
“We can’t say we’re satisfied with the verdict. We would be happy if the murder hadn’t happened. But the main thing is neither the organisers nor those who ordered [the killing] have been found.”
Whatever happened, when a critic of Putin was shot feet from the Kremlin, Seumas was there to defend Vlad in the British press…
That’s one way of putting it…
Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith was at odds with her leader over his response to Russia’s suspected poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Griffiths told BBC Radio 4:
“We very much accept that what the prime minister said – this is a very sophisticated nerve agent and Russia is responsible for this attack and therefore we’re fully supporting the measures which the government is taking, including the expulsion of 23 diplomats.”
That’s much tougher than Corbyn’s words in the Commons yesterday. Griffith also said of Seumas: “I cannot speak for Seumas Milne. He has to speak for himself.” Griffith and Team Corbyn have a long history of falling out, particularly over NATO and nukes…
Her line and overnight pressure following Milne’s briefing has bounced Corbyn’s office politburo into revising their position. They now say:
“The Government has laid out two alternatives: that Russia is either directly responsible or culpable because it lost control of this nerve agent. Yesterday, we agreed that the evidence overwhelmingly points to those two alternatives. The Russian authorities must be held to account on the basis of the evidence and our response must be both decisive and proportionate.”
Too late, the damage is done…
Theresa May slammed Jeremy Corbyn for his lack of support over the Russian spy poisoning crisis. The Prime Minister told Jezza:
“There is a consensus across the backbenches of this House. I am only sorry that this consesnsus does not go as far as the Right Honourable Gentleman, who could have taken the opportunity as the UK government has done to condemn the cuplability of the Russian state.”
This will lead all the news bulletins tonight, the press will crucify Corbyn tomorrow, his own Labour MPs have disowned him and sided with the PM.
In this type situation Guido would normally expect the leader of the oppostion’s spin doctor to back pedal in the Lobby briefing huddle that follows, he would “clarify” and nuance the wording. Emphasise the more conventional parts of the argument to soften the inevitably hostile headlines coming tomorrow. When that spin-doctor is Seumas Milne however it seems there was to be no compromising on Putin’s line. Under intense questioning he refused to say that the Labour Party’s leader accepted the Russian state was at fault:
“The government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don‘t. However, also there is a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly. So, I think the right approach is to seek the evidence to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibitive chemical weapons.”
When Lobby hacks pressed Milne as to if Corbyn believed Russia was responsible for the attack, Milne said the PM continued to leave open the possibility that Russia had lost control of the nerve agent. Milne prefers to doubt MI6 and give the benefit of the doubt to the FSB….
Jeremy Corbyn has taken the line used by the Kremlin when it refused to comply to the UK’s deadline for explaining Sergei Skripal’s poisioning. Corbyn was booed as told the Commons:
“How has she responded to the Russian government’s request for a sample of the agent used in the Sailsibury attack to run its own tests?”
The Russian Embassy in London tweeted:
3/7 Moscow will not respond to London’s ultimatum until it receives samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators are referring. pic.twitter.com/B5CNtimcc3
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) 13 March 2018
The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “Without this, any statements by London are senseless.”
Not much of a surprise though, is it…
Jeremy Corbyn said Vladimir Putin’s illegal incursion into Ukraine which saw the annexation of Crimea was “not unprovoked” and that there were “huge questions” over Western intentions in the country. In a 2014 article for the Morning Star at the height of the Ukraine War Corbyn wrote:
“On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion. But it is not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied. And there are huge questions around the West’s intentions in Ukraine.”
At the same time Corbyn was making excuses for Putin’s actions his top spinner Seumas Milne was loudly defending the Kremlin. Milne, who has described Putin as “a centrist”, called the annexation of Crimea “clearly defensive”:
“Putin’s absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive, and the red line now drawn: the east of Ukraine, at least, is not going to be swallowed up by Nato or the EU”
Don’t count on Corbyn backing the tough line against the Putin regime likely to be announced later today…
Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the Russia spy poisoning crisis is being used by Putin’s state media to counter the British government’s position. Corbyn’s statement to parliament yesterday is set against Theresa May’s in this write-up by TV Zvezda, a Russian army media outlet run by Putin’s Ministry of Defence:
“Earlier, British Prime Minister Teresa May said that Russia was allegedly involved in the poisoning of Skripal. However, she did not bring any more weighty arguments and evidence in favor of her position, but she traditionally promised new anti-Russian sanctions.
“The UK needs dialogue with Russia on all controversial issues. This statement was made by Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during his speech in parliament. “We need to continue to seek a sound dialogue with Russia on all issues that our countries share, not just cutting off contacts and allowing tensions to grow,” Corbyn said.
“In addition, the politician called for an analysis of all the data obtained and to clarify the level of threat posed by the attack.”
The piece is headlined: “The leader of the British Labour Party calls for dialogue with Russia”…
Corbyn’s intervention over Tory donations gets big play in state news agency RIA Novosti’s sympathtic piece:
“The Conservatives greeted Corbyn with a disapproving rumble. The leader of the Labour Party had to stop several times and begin the phrases from the beginning. At the same time Corbyn rebuked the Conservatives for accepting donations from people who had made money dishonestly in Russia.”
“In general, the negative plans are huge. Strengthen economic sanctions, encircle Russia even more closely with military bases, tighten the rules for entry into the UK for our citizens, freeze many of their accounts in British banks, expel Russian diplomats…“I do not regret the place for the words of the famous politician from the Labour Party (main opposition) party, Emily Thornberry: “We need to strive for a healthy dialogue with Russia on issues that are shared by our countries, rather than severing contacts and further exacerbating tensions.”