Johnson: Corbyn is Russia’s ‘useful idiot’

Corbyn, for his part, has vacillated over pointing the finger of blame at Russian President Putin

by BLOOMBERG

LONDON • 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, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (picture) said yesterday.

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 UK 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 last Wednesday of a Foreign Office tweet that made the same link, prompting a backlash from Russia. The UK 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 UK, US and other allies.

‘Sow Confusion’

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 UK 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 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”.

“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. “Johnson has made a fool of himself and undermined the government by seriously misrepresenting what he was told.”

‘High Time’

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.

Yesterday, 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.”

‘Fairy Tales’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last Thursday the poisoning was “staged” to justify the expulsions from many countries “whose arms were twisted”.

“Instead of presenting concrete facts, instead of an honest investigation, unsubstantiated allegations are made,” he said. “Self-respecting adults don’t believe in fairy tales.”

Lavrov called for a “detailed and responsible investigation” in full compliance with the terms of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). OPCW expects to have results of tests it conducted on the nerve agent by this week.

Both Skripals are still recovering at Salisbury District Hospital, which said last 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 US.