Britain increases checks on private jets to thwart breaches of national security

As Russian diplomats leave London, Corbyn fails to offer uncritical support for May

 Russian diplomats and family members leaving the   Russian embassy in central London on Tuesday, March 20th.  British Prime Minister Theresa May ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal  and his daughter Yulia  who  were found suffering from exposure to a rare nerve agent in Salisbury on  March 4th.  Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Russian diplomats and family members leaving the Russian embassy in central London on Tuesday, March 20th. British Prime Minister Theresa May ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia who were found suffering from exposure to a rare nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4th. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

 

Britain has stepped up checks on private flights entering the country but has held back from taking further retaliatory action in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, a fortnight ago. The National Security Council of senior ministers and security chiefs decided against fresh measures against Russia but Theresa May suggested that more sanctions could be imposed in the future.

“There are other measures that government and security officials are actively considering and stand ready to deploy at any time,” she said.

A convoy of buses left the Russian embassy in London on Tuesday, carrying about 80 people, including 23 diplomats expelled in the wake of the Salisbury attack. Russia retaliated last week by expelling 23 British diplomats from Moscow, closing the British consulate in St Petersburg and ordering the British Council to stop operating in Russia.

The enhanced checks on private flights are part of a series of actions designed to track people entering Britain who could pose a threat to national security.

“Action has also been taken at the UK’s border to enhance our efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK who could be engaged in activity that threatens the security of the UK and of our allies. This includes strict checks by border officials on private flights,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain critically ill in hospital following their poisoning with what British authorities identified as a nerve agent produced in Russia. Ms May has held the Kremlin responsible for the attack on the basis that there is no other plausible culprit.

Russia

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn repeated on Tuesday that there was still too little evidence available to draw a definitive conclusion about how the Skripals were poisoned.

“What I’m saying is the weapons were made from Russia, clearly. I think Russia has to be held responsible for it, but there has to be an absolutely definitive answer to the question: where did the nerve agent come from?” he told the BBC.

“All fingers point towards Russia’s involvement in this, and obviously the manufacture of the material was undertaken by the Russian state originally.”

Mr Corbyn has faced criticism from some backbench Labour MPs for his failure to offer uncritical support to the government on the Salisbury attack. But on Tuesday, he said he would engage with Vladimir Putin if Labour came to power.

“Would I do business with Putin? Sure. And I’d challenge him on human rights in Russia, challenge him on these issues and challenge him on that whole basis of that relationship,” he said.

Conservatives on Tuesday expressed outrage at a message of congratulations sent by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to Mr Putin on his re-election as president this week.

“I have always argued that positive relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation are crucial to the security of our continent,” he wrote.

“Our common objective should be to re-establish a co-operative pan-European security order. I hope that you will use your fourth term in office to pursue this goal. I will always be a partner in this endeavour. I wish you every success in carrying out your high responsibilities.”