British PM Theresa May near The Mill Pub in Salisbury, England, on March 15, where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia went before being discovered on a nearby bench on March 4, following an apparent nerve agent attack. Photograph:( AFP )
Britain's opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Friday suggested "mafia-like groups" in Russia could have been responsible for the nerve attack on a former double agent.
He said that the Russian state targeted Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.
"Either this was a crime authored by the Russian state; or that state has allowed these deadly toxins to slip out of the control it has an obligation to exercise," he said.
"If the latter, a connection to Russian mafia-like groups that have been allowed to gain a toehold in Britain cannot be excluded."
He added: "To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security."
The left-wing leader has drawn criticism from his own MPs for failing to fully back the Conservative government, which said Moscow was "culpable" for the March 4 attack. President Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday, faced a midnight deadline to explain to Britain how a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union was used to strike down a former Russian double agent who passed secrets to British intelligence.
Corbyn condemned the "barbaric" incident, which left Skripal and his daughter in a critical condition and also injured a police officer.
He said Labour was "no supporter of the Putin regime", but "that does not mean we should resign ourselves to a 'new Cold War' of escalating arms spending, proxy conflicts across the globe and a McCarthyite intolerance of dissent".
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital in a critical condition since March 4 when they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the southern English cathedral city of Salisbury.
Prime Minister Theresa May said it was "highly likely" Moscow was to blame after Britain identified the substance as part of the Novichok group of nerve agents which were developed by the Soviet military during the 1970s and 1980s.
Britain braced for a showdown with Russia on Wednesday after a midnight deadline set by Prime Minister Theresa May expired without an explanation from Moscow about how a Soviet-era nerve toxin was used to strike down a former Russian double agent.