Nerve agent attack: Johnson faces questions over Porton Down claim

Mr Johnson was asked if they had samples.

Responding, Labour MP Chris Williamson wrote on Twitter: "Dear Britain, Boris Johnson is your Foreign Secretary and he just lied to justify our country's foreign policy". The Foreign Secretary made a statement, the Foreign Office put out a tweet in support of what he said. "It is Russian Federation that is putting forward multiple versions of events and obfuscating the truth".

The Foreign Office told the HuffPost it had deleted the tweet, which was recounting a Moscow briefing by British Ambassador Laurie Bristow, because it "was truncated and did not accurately report our Ambassador's words".

Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, told Sky News that although the substance used in the attack had been identified as Novichok - a class of chemical weapons developed in the former Soviet Union and Russian Federation - it was not clear whether it had been made in Russian Federation.

Speaking on Wednesday, Abbott questioned why Johnson had made such a robust assertion that Putin was responsible when Prime Minister Theresa May had taken the more cautious approach "with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russian Federation". "We have removed this tweet", he explained.

"When I look at the evidence, the people from Porton Down, the laboratory... they were absolutely categorical, I mean, I asked the guy myself, I said, 'are you sure?' and he said 'there's no doubt.' And so, we have very little alternative but to take the action that we have taken".

But during a local election campaign visit to Watford, the Labour leader accused Mr Johnson of exaggerating the evidence.

Russian Federation strongly rejects the claim that it is responsible for the poisoning.

They said that they've identified it as Novichok.

"We have not identified the precise source", Aitkenhead said, though he added creating such a substance was "probably only in the capabilities of a state actor".

"Either the Foreign Secretary has information that he's not sharing with Porton Down or it was a bit of exaggeration". I don't know which it is but we need a responsible, cool approach to this.

His Shadow Cabinet colleague Diane Abbott also challenged the Foreign Secretary to explain his earlier comments, saying it seemed he had "misled the public".

"Serial liar Boris Johnson caught lying again?"

But the Foreign Secretary went on social media to defend himself, tweeting: "It is lamentable that Jeremy Corbyn is now playing Russia's game and trying to discredit the United Kingdom over Salisbury attack".

Mr Corbyn said: "He claimed on German television that this was a Russian-produced nerve agent and Porton Down then examined it and said all they could identify that it was Novachok".

Labour MP Chris Williamson says Boris Johnson has damaged the UK's reputation, after he blamed Russian Federation unequivocally for making the poison used to attack the Skripals.

  • Joey Payne