Anti-Russia alliance under threat? Merkel ally and Labour MPs question May’s Salisbury ‘evidence’
Two Labour MPs and a senior ally of Angela Merkel have questioned the motives of the Tory government after the Porton Down defence laboratory revealed they couldn’t confirm that the Salisbury nerve agent came from Russia.
In a string of tweets, Labour MP Chris Williamson has taken aim at the conservative agenda, likening their severe sanctions on Russia on flimsy evidence to Tony Blair’s trigger-happy launch into the 2003 Iraq War based on bogus intelligence.
7/ But as Jeremy pointed out, and as I said on Newsnight, it was that kind of non-transparent evidence that formed the basis for Britain's disastrous invasion in Iraq.— Chris Williamson MP (@DerbyChrisW) April 3, 2018
8/ So, given what we now know, have you changed your mind on Jeremy's calm and measured approach? Or do you, like @JWoodcockMP, think the role of the Leader of the Opposition should be to get unquestionably over-excited at the prospect for foreign conflict?— Chris Williamson MP (@DerbyChrisW) April 3, 2018
Williamson highlighted the criticism leveled at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for asking for unequivocal proof that Russia was behind the poisoning. Corbyn faced boos and hisses in the House of Commons, and mockery in the media – including doctored images used on the BBC that suggested that Corbyn was sympathetic to the Russian state.
“As you’ll remember, the BBC was echoing claims that Jeremy’s response to the poisoning of Skripal amounted to being soft on Russia,” Williamson wrote. “Rather than join in the hysteria, the Leader of the Opposition asked for clear evidence that Russia was to blame.”
2/ As you’ll remember, the BBC was echoing claims that Jeremy’s response to the poisoning of Skripal amounted to being soft on Russia. Rather than join in the hysteria, the Leader of the Opposition asked for clear evidence that Russia was to blame: pic.twitter.com/IRWVgtblkP— Chris Williamson MP (@DerbyChrisW) April 3, 2018
Williamson pointed out that UK Prime Minister Theresa May had carefully selected her words when the Skripal scandal began, telling the world that it was likely to have been used by the Russian state, and that the UK could prove what the poison was. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, however, threw caution to the wind.
4/ Theresa May was guarded with her words. She said they could prove what the nerve agent was and that it was likely to have been used by the Russian state. However @BorisJohnson said officials at Porton Down told him the evidence that it was Russian was “absolutely categorical” pic.twitter.com/W6O77vQHoS— Chris Williamson MP (@DerbyChrisW) April 3, 2018
Johnson insisted that the chemical weapon used to attack Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury was of Russian origin. He told German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle on March 20 that the evidence proved it was “absolutely categorical” that the chemical came from Russia.
For the avoidance of doubt - here is Boris Johnson clearly claiming that Porton Down had confirmed to him the source of the Salisbury nerve agent. Words matter. He lied. pic.twitter.com/oeuZNNxbAZ— EL4C (@EL4JC) April 3, 2018
As Johnson insisted to the world that the Novichok-type agent was Russian, the High Court was dealing with an application for further blood tests to be taken from the unconscious Skripals. In the hearings over the blood samples, evidence given by a Porton Down analyst was careful in its wording, avoiding affirming the origin of the nerve agent, subsequently casting doubt on the foreign secretary’s insistence of Russian involvement.
READ MORE: Exposed: Court documents cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s claim nerve gas is in ‘no doubt’ Novichok
In a TV interview, Porton Down’s chief executive, Gary Aitkenhead, said on Tuesday that they are unable to confirm the origin of the chemical weapon used to attack Sergei Skripal, who is in critical condition, and his daughter Yulia, who is now stable.
Now officials from the UK’s allies are questioning the their actions. Armin Laschet, one of five deputy chairmen of the German chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union, questioned Britain’s push to persuade its allies that Russia was to blame.
Wenn man fast alle NATO-Staaten zur Solidarität zwingt, sollte man dann nicht sichere Belege haben? Man kann zu Russland stehen wie man will, aber ich habe im Studium des Völkerrechts einen anderen Umgang der Staaten gelernt. https://t.co/kqMSS2qkhi— Armin Laschet (@ArminLaschet) April 3, 2018
“If one forces nearly all NATO countries into solidarity, shouldn’t one have certain evidence?” he tweeted. Laschet has criticized “Russia-bashing” in the past. He has welcomed Russia’s takeover of Crimea and its role in Syria.
On BBC4, Labour MP Diane Abbott also questioned why so many were eager to jump the gun and blame Russia. “I don't understand where Boris Johnson got that information from,” she said.
About Salisbury attack @HackneyAbbott says: "What surprised me was so many people rushed to the media saying it was unequivocally Putin. I don't understand where @BorisJohnson got that information from" #r4today— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) April 4, 2018
Political experts outside of Parliament have also questioned Johnson's apparent eagerness to dive head-first into conflict with Russia. Ex-British diplomat turned influential blogger Craig Murray revealed to RT that “foreign office sources told me two weeks ago that Porton Down were unable to say it was Russia but were under pressure by the Conservatives to say it was.”
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