Tories attack Russia and 'useful idiot' Jeremy Corbyn over Salisbury poisoning

Boris Johnson has branded Jeremy Corbyn "the Kremlin's useful idiot" as Cabinet ministers stepped up their criticism of the Labour leader over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The Foreign Secretary has been accused of "ridiculous insults" after he claimed Mr Corbyn is giving "succour" to Russia's "propaganda onslaught" in the wake of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, which the UK blames on Moscow.

In an assault on the Kremlin's efforts to "bury awkward facts beneath an avalanche of lies and disinformation", Mr Johnson suggested the Labour leader "has joined this effort".

Meanwhile, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid claimed Mr Corbyn "has let the British people down".

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Johnson said: "There is only one thing that gives the Kremlin succour 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.

"Sadly, I am driven to the conclusion that Jeremy Corbyn has joined this effort. Even now he cannot bring himself unequivocally to say that the Russian state was responsible.

"Every time he allows himself to speak freely on the subject he reverts to his comfort zone, his infantile leftist background of sympathy for any country, any movement, however unappealing, that is hostile to Britain."

Last week, Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn clashed after the head of the Porton Down laboratory, which analysed the nerve agent the Skripals were exposed to, told Sky News his scientists have not yet been able to prove where the military-grade novichok was made.

The Labour leader claimed this left the Foreign Secretary with "serious questions to answer" after Mr Johnson had previously used an interview with German TV to claim staff at Porton Down were "absolutely categorical" and told him there was "no doubt" the source of the nerve agent was Russia.

However, the Foreign Office insisted Mr Johnson was making clear that Porton Down were sure it was a novichok.

In his newspaper article, the Foreign Secretary added: "I am trying to resist the conclusion that Jeremy Corbyn is scrabbling around for some theory, any theory, that might exculpate the Kremlin. But I am finding it increasingly difficult."

Mr Johnson also claimed Russia has launched a "pre-emptive campaign" to discredit the pending verdict of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international watchdog, over the Salisbury attack.

He likened Russia's demand to join the OPCW investigation to "a suspected drunk driver demanding the right to use his own breathalyser".

Meanwhile, speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Mr Javid also joined the attack on Mr Corbyn as he spoke of "misinformation and lies" from Moscow.

"There's no doubt when it comes up against this issue with Russia that we're having, this very serious issue, Jeremy Corbyn has let the British people down," he said.

With news the Skripals are no longer in a critical condition as they continue to be treated in Salisbury District Hospital, Mr Javid said it will be an "important moment" when they can give more detail on the incident.

He added Russia has "every right" to ask for access to the Skripals in hospital, but added: "I wouldn't be surprised if the Skripals don't want to meet the Russian authorities."

Responding to Mr Johnson's attack on the Labour leader, a party spokesman said: "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.

"Boris Johnson has made a fool of himself and undermined the Government by seriously misrepresenting what he was told by Porton Down chemical weapons experts.

"These ridiculous insults won't distract attention from the fact that he has clearly misled the public over vital issues of national security."