Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the UK’s decision to send military aid to Ukraine, accusing the West of ‘prolonging and exaggerating’ Russia’s war.
The ex-Labour leader, who infamously refused to blame Russia for the Salisbury poisoning in 2018, said leaders should instead force a peace deal between the pair – turning to the African Union and Arab League, including Syria, for mediation.
He also bemoaned the fact that ‘Ukrainians are dying… and Russian soldiers are dying’ in an interview with a pro-Assad TV channel, whilst condemning NATO expansion for causing ‘greater strain and greater stress.’
Jeremy Corbyn told a pro-Assad TV station in the Middle East that Western weapons sent to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia were ‘prolonging’ the war
Corbyn said leaders should focus on forcing a peace deal between Kyiv and Moscow, despite polls showing a majority of Ukrainians don’t want one (Ukrainian troops with a US howitzer)
Anti-NATO Corbyn’s soft touch on Putin
‘On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion. But it is not unprovoked. [T]here are huge questions around the West’s intentions in Ukraine.’ Morning Star, 2014
Asked if he supports NATO, Corbyn said: ‘I would want to see a world where we start to ultimately disband all military alliances.’ Times Radio, 2022
Refusing to point finger at Putin for Salisbury poisonings, he said: ‘If we are going to make a very, very clear assertion like that we have got to have the absolute evidence to do it. You have got to have incontrovertible evidence otherwise you reduce your ability to criticise other people.’ Andrew Marr Show, 2018
‘We ended up with NATO expanding into a global role, including its activities in Afghanistan and obviously its involvement in the Balkan war, and that has not always been a good thing.’ RFE/RL, 2022
NATO is an ‘engine for the delivery of oil to the oil companies’ – it ‘must give up, go home and go away’. Speech, 2014
Western alliance must focus on ‘reducing tensions in Europe and beyond’ and ‘de-escalate conflict with Russia [for] a wider perspective on the most serious threats to our common security’. Manifesto launch, 2019
A recent poll showed 61 per cent of Ukrainians are against ending the war until all territory occupied by Russia, including Crimea, is back under their control.
There is also a broad consensus between experts and analysts that striking a deal now would favour Moscow, allowing Putin to ‘freeze’ the war while rearming and reinforcing before restarting it at a time of his choosing – as he did in 2014.
But speaking to Al Mayadeen, a pro-Assad TV station based in Lebanon – which is controlled by Iran-backed proxy group Hezbollah – Corbyn argued the opposite.
He said: ‘What I find disappointing is that hardly any of the world’s leaders use the word “peace”, they always use the language of more war and more bellicose war
‘Ukrainians are dying and Ukrainians have gone into exile, thousands and thousands of them. And Russian soldiers are dying, conscripted young Russian soldiers are dying… Therefore there has to be more, much more, effort put into peace.’
Corbyn did say he ‘disagrees’ with the Russian invasion, but then parroted a Kremlin talking-point by adding that arming Ukraine will ‘prolong and exaggerate’ the war.
Meanwhile, he praised UN chief Antonio Guterres for travelling to Moscow to meet with Putin, insisting the global body should be at the forefront of negotiating peace.
If the UN cannot help, Corbyn suggested, then the African Union or Arab League – which includes Syria – should mediate because they ‘have no direct economic interest one way or the other’.
In fact, Russia has arms-dealing agreements with dozens of African nations from whom it also imports natural resources.
Moscow also has troops and paramilitaries stationed across the Middle East.
Corbyn praised UN chief Antonio Guterres for going to Russia to talk to Putin, and said that if he cannot secure peace then the African Union or Arab League should be asked to do it
A Ukrainian boy rides his scooter past a blown-out building in the Sumy region, that was destroyed by Russian forces in the early days of the war
Vladimir Putin with Deputy Chairman of Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, who has recently said Russia will only accept peace ‘on our terms’
Ending the war would also allow Russian gas to start flowing into Europe once again, Corbyn added, suggesting that Germany ‘cannot survive’ without it.
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee and a former defence minister, told The Telegraph: ‘[Corbyn] is illustrating yet again why he would have been such an inappropriate prime minister for the nation.
‘He doesn’t understand that the geopolitical consequences of supporting democracy occasionally means using hard power.
‘This is deeply irresponsible for a senior politician. I hope his comments are not seen to undermine the wider support for, and the commitment to, supporting Ukraine following this unprovoked invasion by Putin.’
Corbyn currently sits in parliament as an independent MP after having the whip withdrawn by Labour because he said anti-Semitism in the party had been overstated for political reasons.
He was also kicked out of the party, though he was reinstated by the membership.
Al Mayadeen was established in 2012 by journalists and executives from Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya, some of whom were upset by their criticism of Syria’s rulers.
Ukrainian artillery crews are pictured near the frontline in Kharkiv, where they have been using western-supplied guns to shell Russian positions
Its head of news at the time was married to a PR adviser for dictator Assad – also a close ally of Russia – and it has been accused of getting support from his regime.
The station has also been accused of getting support from Iran, though it has denied all such charges. Previous guests have included the likes of George Galloway.
Britain has been one of the largest providers of military aid to Ukraine, having stepped up to provide anti-tank launchers even before Putin ordered his invasion.
Kyiv said the weapons proved invaluable at destroying convoys of tanks and trucks headed towards the capital in the early days of the war.
Britain has also provided valuable anti-air defences to protect Ukrainian cities from Russian jets and cruise missiles, anti-ship rockets to guard the coast, and long-range rocket artillery to blow up ammo dumps and command posts.
Russia is currently five months into what was supposed to be a days-long war in Ukraine, with its main offensive largely stalled.
Kyiv’s men are now trying to reverse some of the territorial gains Putin’s men have made since late February, and are targeting the southern city of Kherson.
President Zelensky has acknowledged the ultimate need for a peace deal, but says it will be up to the Ukrainian people to chose when and on what terms the war stops.
‘We have no right to do this… this land belongs to Ukrainian people,’ he said in a recent interview.
Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president, said recently that peace will ‘be on our terms’ – without spelling out exactly what that means.
Before the war, Moscow had been demanding that Ukraine agree never to join NATO, cede territory in its eastern Donbas, and that the alliance should withdraw all forces from ex-Soviet states – terms categorically ruled out by allies and the US.