'Brazen act of war' if Russia behind nerve agent attack, says Tory MP

A Tory former minister has said it would be "a brazen act of war" if Russia was behind an attack on a Russian ex-spy.

Sir Edward Leigh said the circumstantial evidence was "very strong" against Russia over the incident in Salisbury, adding that it was an attempt at "humiliating our country".

Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw also spoke out about the growing threat "of the terrorist Russia state under President Putin".

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Home Secretary Amber Rudd, making a statement to MPs, said "there will come a time for attribution" but her focus was now on the incident.

Sir Edward said: "The circumstantial evidence against Russia is very strong. Who else would have the motive and the means?

"Can I put the same question to the Home Secretary as I put to the Foreign Secretary earlier this week?

"Those of us who seek to understand Russia know that the only way to preserve peace is through strength.

"If Russia is behind this, this is a brazen act of war, of humiliating our country."

He went on to urge Ms Rudd to support calls from defence minister Tobias Ellwood and invest more resources in defence.

Labour's Ben Bradshaw sought assurance of meaningful action to deal with the threat from Russia
Labour's Ben Bradshaw sought assurance of meaningful action to deal with the threat from Russia

Ms Rudd said: "My first concern must be the incident in hand. The incident in hand and the safety of the people in the area and around the incident itself.

"There will come a time for attribution and there will be, then, consequences and there will be further information that follows.

"But now, I'm concerned about the incident and the consequences around that."

Mr Bradshaw sought assurance that the Government would take "meaningful action" to tackle the threat from Russia.

He added: "There are many members on both sides of this House who have warned for several years about the growing threat of the terrorist Russia state under President Putin, whether it's money laundering in the city of London, the targeted murders and the interference in our political and democratic system."

Ms Rudd said: "This Government has not been asleep at the switch in terms of where our international enemies are.

"He refers to Russia and separately to this incident I would say that we have been very clear about our disagreements with Russia, particularly on Ukraine and Syria and we have been outspoken in our criticism and determination to take action.

She added: "We will go further, should there be the need to do so."

Labour's Yvette Cooper raised her letter to the Home Secretary to review 14 deaths in the UK that, according to BuzzFeed, have been linked to Russia by US intelligence agencies.

Ms Cooper, the chairwoman of the Home Affairs select committee, also suggested the Home Secretary consider going to the UN Security Council and asking for a statement from all nations to provide assistance, including a willingness to extradite suspects.

Ms Rudd said: "I have got her letter and I will be responding, but I would just gently say that now is not the time to investigate what is actually only, at the moment, rumour and speculation.

"Now is the time to focus on the incident at hand and the investigation proceeding.

"She makers a suggestion regarding international activity and I can just say to her that at some stage, we will be coming back to the House with our proposals.

"But for now, we are merely preparing and concentrating on the incident."

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