Friday 22 June 2018

Jeremy Corbyn declines to say whether Vladimir Putin bears any responsibility for nerve agent attack

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn declined to say whether Vladimir Putin bears any responsibility for the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

On a visit to a school in Derby, Mr Corbyn was asked whether he thought the Russian president was responsible for the Novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Mr Corbyn said: "I think somebody was obviously responsible for it and that somebody has to be found. My view is that the use of nerve agents is obviously vile and wrong. And the chemical weapons convention inspection must take place and those that did it must be held responsible.

"Clearly, Novichok is of Russian design and Russian origin, but the investigation should take place on this."

The student asked: "You don't think it's Putin?"

Mr Corbyn replied: "I don't say it is or isn't. I say an investigation must take place so the finger of blame can be pointed with evidence behind it. I think any differences between countries have got to be evidence-based so that we do have a legal basis for our complaints against whoever did it.

"I'm pleased that both the Skripals seem to be recovering although I think the long-term effects of Novichok will not go away just because they've recovered from the immediate effects of it."

The international chemical weapons watchdog has backed Britain's findings as to the identity of the chemical used in the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said an analysis of samples taken from Sergei Skripal, his daughter, Yulia, and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, confirmed the UK's assessment.

The Government has said that its analysis by military experts at Porton Down showed they were affected by Novichok - a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia.

The executive summary released by the OPCW does not mention Novichok by name.

It states: "The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirms the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people."

The OPCW noted that the chemical was of "high purity" with an "almost complete absence" of any impurities.

The findings were welcomed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

He said: "This is based on testing in four independent, highly reputable laboratories around the world. All returned the same conclusive results.

"There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible - only Russia has the means, motive and record."

The OPCW was invited by the UK to carry out a technical investigation after Moscow strongly challenged its assertion that responsibility for the attack lay with the Kremlin.

The OPCW said that it had taken blood samples from the three affected individuals under "full chain of custody" for analysis at its laboratories, as well as checking their identities against official photo ID documents.

It also conducted on-site sampling from "hot spots" of contamination in Salisbury.

Samples taken by the British authorities were supplied to OPCW laboratories in Rijswijk in the Netherlands for comparative analysis in order to verify the UK's findings.

The OPCW did not identify the source of the chemical which Britain has said could only come from Russia.

Press Association

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