POLITICS
15/03/2018 10:16 GMT | Updated 15/03/2018 13:39 GMT

Labour Accepts 'Russia Is Responsible' For Salisbury Attack Says Nia Griffith

Shadow defence secretary hits out at Jeremy Corbyn's official spokesman.

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Labour accepts that “Russia is responsible for this attack” in Salisbury, shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith has said.

Her intervention followed a backbench backlash against Jeremy Corbyn for his refusal to directly blame Moscow for the use of a nerve agent on UK soil.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Thursday morning, Griffith took a swipe at the Labour leader’s official spokesman for questioning the conclusions of the intelligence agencies.

“I can’t speak for Seumas Milne, the spokesperson, he has to speak for himself,” she said.

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Corbyn’s spokesman told reporters yesterday: “There is a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which are problematic, to put it mildly.”

But Griffith said the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter was “very different” to the the run-up to the Iraq War.

“We have very clear evidence and that is what we need to be talking about now,” she said. “We need to be looking at this particular situation.”

She said the UK has “very, very fine intelligence services” and “great expertise on some of these matters”.

“We very much accept what the prime minister said, this is a very sophisticated nerve agent, and that Russia is responsible for this attack,” she said.

Griffith added she was more “plain speaking” than Corbyn and said he had made it clear in “the subsequent statement that he’s put out” that Labour is “fully supportive” of the government’s actions.

Full UK response to Salisbury attack:

  • 23 Russian diplomats expelled.

  • Creating new power to detain those suspected of Hostile State Activity at the UK border. 

  • Increase checks on private flights, customs and freight.

  • Freeze Russian State assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents.

  • Suspend all planned high level bi-lateral contacts between the UK and Russia, including revoking the invitation to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit to the UK.

  • No attendance by Ministers - or indeed Members of the Royal Family - at this Summer’s World Cup in Russia.

Labour MPs lined up to offer their support to Theresa May in the Commons yesterday after she announced a series of retaliatory measures.

Following Corbyn’s Commons performance, Labour MPs began signing an Early Day Motion which said Russia was “unequivocally” to blame for the Salisbury attack.

Labour MPs have publicly attacked Corbyn’s spokesman for his comments.

Boris Johnson this morning said it was “overwhelmingly obvious” that Russia was culpable for the attack.

He told the BBC: “What we have done in expelling 23 diplomats, probably undeclared agents, is far beyond what Vladimir Putin had bargained for.

“We have basically eviscerated his intelligence capabilities in this country for decades to come.”

The UK’s “tit for tat” row with Russia is set to escalate, a senior Cabinet source has warned as neither country “wants to be the first not to retaliate”.

In an insight to Cabinet thinking, the source revealed ministers were analysing whether the Russians carried out the attack because of “operational necessity”, or the Kremlin wanted to send “a message”.