SPY GAMES: (Above left) Jeremy Corbyn; (above right) Boris Johnson; and (below) Yulia Skripal

by Amit Roy


FORMER Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, are not the only victims of the poisoning affair that has gripped Britain since March 4.  

The other victim is surely Jeremy Corbyn. His refusal to follow the government line on Russia has been seized on to portray him as a stooge of the Kremlin.  

For the time being, Conservative differences over Brexit have been put to one side, while the government’s firepower has been concentrated on Russia – and on Corbyn. There is very little talk now about prime minister Theresa May be­ing toppled by Tory Brextremists.  

Writing in the Sunday Times, foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the Labour leader was play­ing “Putin’s game”.  

“There is only one thing that gives the Kremlin succour and lends false credibility to its propa­ganda onslaught,” Johnson raged. “That is when politicians from the targeted countries join in. Sadly, I am driven to the conclusion that Jeremy Corbyn has joined this effort.”  

Corbyn’s qualifications have been somewhat lost. According to a Labour spokesman, “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.”  

As for 66-year-old Sergei and Yulia, it seems they have turned a corner, whereas previous re­ports that they were “critically” ill had suggested they might not recover. But the foreign office is right in saying they are likely to have “ongoing medical needs”.  

The Russians are demanding consular access to Yulia, who is a Russian national and has a job, an apartment, a Ford Kuga car and a pet dog called Noir in Moscow, plus a shadowy 30-year-old fiancé named Stepan Vikeev.  

But can she ever return home? If she meets Russian diplomats, anything she says will be used as evidence that Russia was not responsible for the poisoning. Equally, she cannot come across as even vaguely disloyal to the British, who have saved her life and that of her father.  

It may be she will have to accept the political asylum she did not seek and disappear with her father to a new life with new identities. However, everything about Russian culture suggests that its people are fiercely patriotic and miss their mother country when driven into exile.  

What happened last month is certainly a trag­edy for Yulia Skripal.