Jeremy Corbyn says he would still do business with Vladimir Putin despite Russian nerve agent attack

Joe Watts

Jeremy Corbyn has said he would still do business with Vladimir Putin despite “all fingers” pointing towards Russian responsibility for the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The Labour leader used an interview on Tuesday to say that a relationship with Russia should be maintained, enabling the Government to challenge its leaders over human rights abuses and other issues.

Mr Corbyn will also again ask that a sample of the nerve agent identified by British investigators be passed to Moscow, so that the Russian authorities can take a view on its origins.

It comes after the Labour leader was forced to defend his stance on the attack after declining to categorically blame the Kremlin for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, his daughter and a British police officer.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Mr Corbyn maintained there had to be a dialogue with Russia and said he would still deal with its President – re-elected with a notably large 76 per cent of the vote on Monday.

Mr Corbyn said in the interview to be broadcast today: “Would I do business with Putin, sure?

“And I’d challenge him on human rights in Russia, challenge him on these issues and challenge him on that whole basis of that relationship.”

The Labour leader’s earlier warning not to “rush ahead of the evidence”, led to criticism from Conservatives and some Labour backbenchers, however he reiterated his call for Russia to be sent samples of the nerve agent to discover its source.

He added: “All fingers point towards Russia’s involvement in this, and obviously the manufacture of the material was undertaken by the Russian state originally.

“What I’m saying is the weapons were made from Russia, clearly.

“I think Russia has to be held responsible for it, but there has to be an absolutely definitive answer to the question: where did the nerve agent come from? I asked the Russians be given a sample so that they can say categorically one way or the other.”

Mr Skripal, a former double agent, and his daughter are still fighting for their lives after being exposed to Novichok in Salisbury.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has previously said Labour agreed with Theresa May that Russia was responsible for the attack.

On Monday, both Ms May and Mr Johnson hit back at Mr Putin’s denial of responsibility for the attack, with the Foreign Secretary accusing Russia of trying to conceal “the needle of truth in a haystack of lies” over the incident.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said the use of a nerve agent against the Skripals was “very deliberate”.

He added: “As Ken Clarke pointed out in Parliament last week, the obvious Russian-ness of the weapon was designed to send a signal to anyone pondering dissent amid the intensifying repression of Mr Putin’s Russia.

“The message is clear: we will hunt you down, we will find you and we will kill you – and though we will scornfully deny our guilt, the world will know that Russia did it.”