The Home Office has come under further pressure to reinvestigate the 14 suspicious deaths on British soil that have been linked by US intelligence agencies to the Russian state, as revealed by a BuzzFeed News investigation last year.
Labour MP Mike Gapes, a former chair of the foreign affairs select committee, told the House of Commons on Thursday it was "remarkable" that home secretary Sajid Javid had declared there was "no basis" on which to reopen any of the investigations.
Javid's conclusion came to light on the same day that the UK government named two Russian nationals in connection with the Salisbury nerve agent attack, saying they were likely to be officers from Russia's GRU military intelligence service.
During a debate on foreign affairs, Gapes said: "We need to be serious about not just the crimes in Salisbury but also the 14 other suspicious deaths linked to Russia which have occurred over recent years.
"In the light of what we now know and in the light of the very comprehensive and detailed statement made yesterday by the prime minister, I call on the government to revisit this issue because there have been other murders and other deaths of Russian exiles in this country over several years.
"And I’m not convinced, personally, and satisfied that I could say in all truth that that is not linked to the way in which the Russian state has carried out an attack on our country in Salisbury this year. Therefore I would ask the Home Office to look again at that issue."
Gapes follows two other senior parliamentarians – former cabinet ministers John Whittingdale and Ben Bradshaw – in raising questions about the decision by Javid, which followed a review of the cases by the Metropolitan Police, launched in the wake of the Salisbury attack.
The original BuzzFeed News investigation in March 2017 revealed that British intelligence agencies had been sitting on high-grade intelligence from their US counterparts that pointed to Russian state involvement in the 14 suspicious deaths on UK soil. Yet in all 14 cases, British police ruled out foul play.
Gapes also took aim at his own Labour front bench over its position on Russia, singling out Jeremy Corbyn's spokesperson Seumas Milne for criticism.
He pointed to Milne's comments in March, in the wake of the Salisbury attack, when he said there was not yet proof that Russia was responsible for the poisoning and warned that the intelligence agencies could be wrong as they had been in the past about weapons of mass destruction.
Milne also suggested at the time that the attack could have been carried out by another former Soviet state, saying: "The breakup of the Soviet state led to all sorts of material ending up in random hands.”
Gapes said: "Frankly he was implying that the Russian state was not responsible ... Mr Seumas Milne has been dissembling and attempting to divert the attention from the real cause and the real culprits, which is the Putin regime in Moscow."
Pointing to opinion pieces on Russia that Milne has written for the Guardian, Gapes added: "Frankly that goes against the whole basis of the historic Labour tradition of standing up to the aggression that came from the Soviet Union in the Cold War period, and also our establishment under Clem Attlee’s government of NATO and the consistent support for our values and the defence of our society by successive Labour governments.
"I believe very strongly that the Labour party would be in a much better place and we would have much greater clarity on foreign affairs matters if we had people who were working for our party leadership who actually believed in those Labour values."
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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