Alex Salmond tells LBC he 'does not know' if Russia was behind Salisbury poisonings

14 April 2021, 22:20 | Updated: 15 April 2021, 00:23

By Will Taylor

Alex Salmond has said he does not know if Vladimir Putin and the Russian state were behind the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury.

The UK says Russian GRU agents are behind the attack aimed at former spy Sergei Skripal, whose daughter Yulia was also exposed to the nerve agent.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, died after coming into contact with a perfume bottle thought to have contained Novichok before being discarded. Her partner Charlie Rowley also fell ill.

Asked by Iain Dale if he thought Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the attack, the former Scottish first minister and Alba party leader said that was "more difficult to establish" but thought "there was Russian involvement in the issue".

"I don't know," he added.

Read more: Former SNP leader Alex Salmond launches new pro-independence party

He disagreed with Iain’s assertion there is "enough evidence for you to say yes to that".

"What I'm happily prepared to say is I do not believe that two people associated with the GRU were in Salisbury because they wanted to pay a visit to Salisbury Cathedral.

"I didn't think that was a particularly convincing story."

Two Russians, using the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were accused of attempting to murder Mr Skripal with Novichok by smearing the nerve agent on his home’s door handle.

Moscow denies any involvement and the two Russians insisted, in a notorious interview, they had been sightseeing in Salisbury instead.

When he was asked why Russia had built up a large number of troops on Ukraine’s border, Mr Salmond said: "I think there's a substantial international dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Read more: Russian ships carry out drills amid military buildup at Ukraine border

"And I'm delighted that, unlike (former) president Trump, President Biden last night said he was looking for a secure and stable relationship with Russia."

Mr Salmond said Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny should be allowed to contest elections.

Iain asked him if he thought the Russian state was behind Mr Navalny’s poisoning. Mr Salmond said he didn’t know.

"I’ve asked you three questions now regarding Russia and Putin and you’ve given me at best evasive answers," Iain said.

Mr Salmond, who presented a show on Russian state TV channel RT through an independent production company, is contesting the upcoming Scottish elections as leader of the Alba party.