The day MPs united against Putin... and Jeremy Corbyn

Russian spy assassinations

Meanwhile, fellow Labour backbencher John Woodcock - a regular critic of Mr Corbyn - revealed he is gathering signatures for a parliamentary motion among Labour MPs, to make it clear they "unequivocally accept Russia's culpabililty in the Salisbury attack" and support the Government's actions.

Ms Griffith said she "can't speak for Seumas Milne", adding that Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman "has to speak for himself".

Media captionCorbyn: "Our response must be decisive and proportionate and based on clear evidence".

But pressed on whether another former Soviet state, such as Ukraine, could be the origin of the nerve agent, he replied: "The second option Theresa May set out on Monday and again today - that the Russian Government had lost control of weapons grade nerve agents which may have been produced during the Soviet period - contains within it a series of different possibilities of who then might have been directly responsible for that".

"Clearly whoever carried out the attack is responsible for what was a completely heinous and reckless act", he said, arguing that the agent could have fallen into a third party's hands.

Image copyright UK Parliament Image caption Nia Griffith says Labour accepts what the prime minister has said and that Russian Federation is responsible.

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Mr Corbyn received fierce criticism from Conservatives and some of his own MPs after his team raised doubts about who was responsible for the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

Asked which leader they would prefer to be in charge of the UK's relationship with Russian Federation, 69 per cent named Mrs May and 31 per cent Mr Corbyn.

But the spokesman said such moves risk starting a "tit for tat" response and that measures to "hit them in the pocket" would be more effective.

In a briefing with journalists after Mrs May's statement, a Labour spokesman said: "Jeremy has condemned the attack in unequivocal terms".

He added: "It is essential we follow the evidence and what the evidence produces".

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Corbyn condemned the "appalling" attack but pressed Theresa May on whether the United Kingdom had supplied traces of the nerve agent used in the attack to Russian Federation for analysis before Wednesday's deadline, as the Kremlin had asked.

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Asked by Sky News whether they were happy with the Labour leader's response, one member of the shadow cabinet said: "I could not possibly comment". "The important thing is that this is our position now and I can assure you very strongly that is our frontbench position".

Asked if Mr Corbyn had undermined United Kingdom security assessments that it was "highly likely" Russian Federation was behind their poisoning, Ms Griffith said: "Looking back, perhaps it would have been easier for us if he had made it clear at the beginning of what he said, just how much we support the expulsion of the diplomats".

Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, is understood to have stressed that ultimate responsibility was hard to determine, while the shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer urged Mr Corbyn to condemn the attack - which he did, following May's statement.

The Labour leader condemned the "appalling" attack but pressed the PM on whether the United Kingdom had supplied traces of the nerve agent used in the attack to Russian Federation for analysis before Wednesday's deadline, as the Kremlin had asked.

"It's something they haven't even tried to do - so, therefore they have to face the consequences".

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