Corbyn Is Russia's ‘Useful Idiot’ in Spy Case, Johnson SaysBy
Labour Party hits back, saying Johnson misled British public
Russian ambassador seeks meeting with U.K. foreign secretary
Jeremy Corbyn is playing “Putin’s game” by lending false credibility to Russian propaganda that it has nothing to do with the poisoning of a former double agent on British soil, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Sunday.
The opposition Labour Party leader has reverted to a “comfort zone” of “infantile leftist background of sympathy for any country, any movement, however unappealing, that is hostile to Britain,” Johnson wrote in the Sunday Times. “Truly he is the Kremlin’s useful idiot.”
The comments open the foreign secretary up to the charge that he’s trying to divert attention from his own gaffe over the March poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia that left both in a critical condition. Johnson undermined Britain’s credibility by saying a U.K. laboratory had identified Russia as the source of the Novichok poison -- a statement then contradicted by the lab’s director, Gary Aitkenhead.
That led to the deletion on Wednesday of a Foreign Office tweet that made the same link, prompting a backlash from Russia. The U.K. subsequently clarified that a combination of the lab’s findings and other intelligence led it to conclude Russia was the source of the substance. That conclusion led to the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats by the U.K., U.S. and other allies.
Corbyn, for his part, has vacillated over pointing the finger of blame at Russian President Vladimir Putin, earning him criticism from members of his own party as well as Johnson’s ruling Conservatives and the U.K. media.
“There is only one thing that gives the Kremlin succor and lends false credibility to its propaganda onslaught, and that is when politicians from the targeted countries join in the effort -- whether wittingly or not -- to create doubt where there is none and sow confusion where there is clarity,” Johnson wrote. “Sadly, I am driven to the conclusion that Jeremy Corbyn has joined this effort.”
The Labour Party hit back at Johnson’s “ridiculous insults,” saying they won’t distract from the fact that the foreign secretary “has clearly misled the public over vital issues of national security.”
“Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly said the evidence points to Russia being responsible, directly or indirectly, and that the Russian authorities must be held to account on the basis of evidence,” Labour said in an emailed statement. “Boris Johnson has made a fool of himself and undermined the government by seriously misrepresenting what he was told.”
The Russian Embassy in London said it’s “high time” Johnson held a meeting with Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko to discuss the case and other bilateral issues. On Sunday, the embassy issued a statement saying Britain had refused entry to Viktoria Skripal, the niece of the poisoned spy.
“From our conversations with her, we gather that she very much hoped to support her family members in a difficult moment,” the embassy said. “Such a decision of the British authorities, as we have already said, is politically motivated, and raises a lot of questions about its reasoning. More and more questions to the British side arise.”
Both Skripals are still recovering at Salisbury District Hospital, which said on Friday that Sergei is no longer in a critical condition, eight days after the same improvement was reported in his daughter. The Sunday Times, citing an intelligence source, said both will be offered new identities and a new life in the U.S.