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'Said he would do business with Putin' Andrew Neil battles trolls as Corbyn row explodes

This latest spat began when Mr Neil tweeted about his upcoming piece in the Daily Mail, to which he added: “What I didn’t have room to mention is that the crisis has also helped Keir Starmer. Labour’s anti-Nato, pro-Kremlin Corbynistas are now a busted flush.” Twitter Corbynistas were quick to respond with fierce replies in which they outlined various times when Mr Corbyn had slated Russia and called for greater sanctions on the country – however, Mr Neil was more than happy to fire right back.

Mr Corbyn’s stance on Russia has come under scrutiny following an extraordinary comment he made during a live stream called “No War in Ukraine: Stop NATO Expansion” – just weeks before Russia would invade Ukraine.

In the stream, Mr Corbyn said it was “the US with British support that is leading the way on” the ramping up of military tensions.

This was at a time when 130,000 Russian troops were surrounding Ukraine.

These comments now haunt Mr Corbyn as many question his stance on Russia invading Ukraine, despite the former Labour leader publicly condemning the invasion and warning of “dark days ahead” for all concerned if they did not withdraw troops.

After a commenter argued that there are plenty of examples of Mr Corbyn protesting Russian money in the UK as well as against Putin himself, Mr Neil retorted: “This is fascinating. Thank you. Can you cite when and where Mr Corbyn was opposing Putin so I can give such exemplary behaviour a wider currency.”

The commenters were quick to provide – with one highlighting a Facebook post where Mr Corbyn outlines his stance on Russia.

Mr Corbyn said in the post: “In 2008 I asserted that Putin was rigging elections. Then in 2010 I called for a freeze of his assets, followed in 2012 by a call for the Magnitsky Act.

“In the same year (2012) I called for the Russian Arms Corps to be banned, and in 2016 I asserted that Putin was guilty of war crimes in Syria.

“All wars end in a political solution, not a military one, and this crisis needs a ceasefire and dialogue, not more war, otherwise there would be more bloodshed and many more Ukrainians (and Russians) would die.”

Mr Neil responded to Mr Corbyn’s words, saying: “This is pretty convincing if not entirely comprehensive (eg nothing on response to Skripal poisoning)”.

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This again saw a major backlash, with Twitter user James Foster quoting Mr Corbyn’s statement on the horrific Salisbury poisonings in 2018, in which a former Russian spy was nearly killed with his wife by the Novichok nerve agent.

The poisoning led to the death of Dawn Sturgess after the poison was thrown away by the attackers.

Mr Corbyn had said: “The use of nerve agents on our streets is barbaric and beyond reckless.

“The Russian authorities must be held to account. And the Government must do more to tackle the oligarchs and their ill-gotten cash.”

However, at the time of the poisonings, Mr Corbyn faced severe scrutiny for his reaction to the poisonings. In a YouGov poll at the time, 53 percent of the public thought then-PM Theresa May handled the situation well – well only 18 percent said the same of Mr Corbyn.

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He was similarly humiliated in Parliament, when the deputy speaker had to step in to quiet down his own backbenchers’ cries of indignation, after Mr Corbyn asked whether Ms May had complied with Russia’s ludicrous request to be sent a sample of the Novichok nerve agent used to poison the Skripals.

This was so that, Mr Corbyn later clarified, “they can say categorically one way or the other” whether the Russian state-manufactured nerve agent used in the attempted assassination of a Russian ex-spy belonged to them.

Mr Neil similarly rejected claims that Mr Corbyn had sufficiently condemned the Skripal poisonings, adding: “2 days later: Corbyn says he would still do business with Putin, as Russian diplomats expelled from UK.

“On more sanctions he said they should wait for evidence before imposing further measures.

“In interview with BBC Corbyn again stopped short of blaming the Kremlin for attack.”

Mr Corbyn’s warning at the time not to “rush ahead of the evidence” was met with criticism from both the conservatives and his own frontbench.



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