Carpet for MBS, anger at Russia

UK's contrasting attitudes towards Saudi Arabia and Russia on show

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 9.03.18
British home secretary Amber Rudd

London: The British government's contrasting attitudes to Russia and Saudi Arabia, both accused of violating humans rights and waging war on neighbours, have become apparent in the last couple of days.

The media and many MPs, especially Tory, have no doubt that the order to kill the Russian Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, by using a nerve agent came from the very top in the Kremlin.

He was a double agent working for Britain when he was sentenced to 13 years in prison by the Russian authorities. Seven years ago he arrived in Britain as part of a spy swap.

Addressing the Commons on Thursday, the home secretary Amber Rudd said: "The use of a nerve agent on UK soil is a brazen and reckless act."

Skripal and his daughter are critically ill in hospital.

Rudd went on: "This was attempted murder in the most cruel and public way.

"We are committed to doing all we can to bring the perpetrators to justice - whoever they are and wherever they may be."

She also confirmed that a policeman, who has gone to help the stricken father and daughter himself fell victim to the nerve agent. But he is out of intensive and talking to fellow police officers.

Significantly, Rudd stopped short of blaming Putin for the attack but others were less restrained. Responding to a suggestion from Edward Leigh, a Conservative former minister, that if Russia was responsible it amounted to an "act of war", Rudd said: "There will come a time for attribution and there will be, then, consequences."

Boris Johnson, foreign secretary, called it "another crime in the litany of crimes that we can lay at Russia's door".

In marked contrast, although Saudi Arabia also stands accused of using British weapons in the Yemen and having a poor human rights record, the red carpet has been rolled out for its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as part of a pragmatic foreign policy.

Thursday's court circular in The Daily Telegraph said it all. He was received by the Queen at Buckingham Palace and "remained to luncheon" - a favour yet to be bestowed on President Donald Trump. In the evening Prince Charles hosted a dinner for his opposite number.

The Saudi royal, who is expected to become king before too long, is also being wined and dined by Theresa May as Downing Street laid out a £65 billion bilateral trade and investment package.

Britain will respond appropriately if evidence shows Moscow sponsored a nerve agent attack on a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in southern England, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday, in the highest-level warning of action to date.