‘Russia retaliation against UK is futile,’ says Boris Johnson

Branding Mr Putin “a bully”, he says expelling 23 British diplomats and kicking the British Council out of Moscow will only punish ordinary Russians.

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The Foreign Secretary has also stepped up his onslaught on Jeremy Corbyn, accusing the Labour leader of aiding “the Russian propaganda machine”.

His latest attack, in a hard-hitting article in the Sun on Sunday, comes after he accused Mr Putin of personally masterminding the Salisbury poisoning.

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Reacting to the latest move by Moscow, Mr Johnson says: “Yesterday the Kremlin said it would close the British Council and our Consulate in St Petersburg.

“These futile measures will only punish ordinary Russians by depriving them of harmless opportunities to learn English and apply for UK visas.

“Today Russia stands alone and isolated.

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“That fact demonstrates the most telling difference between Britain and Putin: we have friends across the world and he does not.”

Paying tribute to Labour MPs who have condemned the Russian leader, he says there is a shared awareness in both main parties that national unity is the UK’s greatest strength.

And attacking the Labour leader, Mr Johnson writes: “Alas the only person who has refused to join this show of solidarity is Jeremy Corbyn.

“He let down his party and country by seemingly aiding the efforts of the Russian propaganda machine by casting doubt over what is obvious to any objective onlooker.”

He adds: “However I refuse to dwell on the disappointing, if all-too-predictable, response from Mr Corbyn.

“Instead I would prefer to focus on the support Britain has received from friends across the world.

“President Macron of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Trump of the US have voiced horror over Salisbury and named the Russian state as the perpetrator.”

And he claims: “Hour by hour, the Foreign Office receives more statements of support from our allies.”

Mr Johnson begins his article: “The more we learn about the Salisbury attack the more disturbing it becomes.

“On Friday it emerged that 131 innocent people may have been exposed to the Novichok nerve agent.

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“People ask me: Why us? Why did the Russian state choose to carry out this heinous act in Britain?

“Of all the opponents of Vladimir Putin living around the world, why target Sergei Skripal in Salisbury?

“The answer is that Britain is not alone in facing Russia’s reckless behaviour.”

The Foreign Secretary goes on to attack Mr Putin over Crimea, cyber attacks, interfering in European elections and Syria.

“We knew there would be risks in opposing the Kremlin – resisting a bully is always risky,” he says. “But we did it anyway because we knew it to be right.

“So I believe that what happened in Salisbury was, at least in part, the Kremlin’s way of hitting back at Britain for standing firm against its appalling behaviour.”

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