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Labour politicians have had a dubious attitude to the Putin regime — but they're not the only ones (Photo: CC BY 4.0)

The Labour Party has a Russia problem. Or, more precisely, Jeremy Corbyn and those around the Labour leadership have an unnatural attachment to Russia and all its works. This has recently been demonstrated in Corbyn’s unwillingness to accept unequivocally that the Russian state was behind the nerve agent poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury and that Russia’s ally Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack on Douma.Corbyn has been all too ready to propose other potential guilty parties or to entertain the possibility that both these actions were false flag operations. While Theresa May has shown herself in the best light in her response to these aggressions, Corbyn has demonstrated his greatest weakness: lingering admiration and affection for all those who are opposed to the United States.

Labour politicians are not the only ones to have had a dubious attitude to the Putin regime. There has been much comment on how the Conservative Party has received donations from people who have had a rather cosy relationship with Putin. Some Tory Eurosceptics, in their hatred of all things emanating from Brussels, have been rather too ready to blame the European Union and its expansionist plans for the Ukraine crisis. The Bruges Group has been the most egregious offender in this regard, producing a film in 2014, Someone has Blunder’d, blaming Russian aggression against Ukraine on mythical Euro-neocons. Writing as someone who found voting for Brexit the easiest political choice of my life — and who would still have voted Leave even if I had believed that Project Fear was Project Understatement — it astounds me that there are otherwise sensible politicians and Eurosceptics who seem to think that if faced with a choice of domination by the EU or domination by Russia, as Ukraine was, the latter is a sensible option. For all its faults the EU is not a kleptocracy that routinely falsifies elections, murders political opponents, and imprisons dissidents.

Once one moves further right, Putinophilia takes off at full throttle. Nigel Farage has a distinct soft spot for the strongman in the Kremlin. When one reaches the noxious and balmy world of ex-British National Party leader Nick Griffin — a man who now describes himself as “national revolutionary strategist and lifelong white rights figher” — one finds a man who regards Putin as the potential saviour of the white race. Griffin — a frequent visitor to Assad’s Syria — now says he will vote Labour because of Corbyn’s opposition to the use of force against Assad.The most serious Putinophiles are, however, found around the Labour leader. Seumas Milne, Labour’s Director of Strategy, stated back in his days as a Guardian columnist, “Putin’s absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in the eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive . . . the east of Ukraine, at least, is not going to be swallowed up by Nato or the EU.” Andrew Murray, a key Corbyn strategist and former leading light of the Communist Party of Britain, even set up a pro-Russian aggression campaign group, “Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine”.
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