Cor­byn’s top ad­viser banned from Ukraine as national se­cu­rity risk ‘over Putin links’

First ex-Com­mu­nist had bid for Com­mons se­cu­rity pass blocked, now...

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Glen Owen in London and Nick Craven in Kiev Ad­di­tional re­port­ing: Will Ste­wart in Moscow

JEREMY Cor­byn’s most in­flu­en­tial Com­mons ad­viser has been barred from en­ter­ing Ukraine on the grounds that he is a national se­cu­rity threat be­cause of his al­leged links to Vladimir Putin’s ‘global pro­pa­ganda net­work’.

For­mer com­mu­nist Andrew Mur­ray, Mr Cor­byn’s chief po­lit­i­cal ad­viser, was slapped with the three-year ban in June on the ad­vice of the coun­try’s se­cu­rity ser­vice, the SBU.

But last night Mr Mur­ray, who has played a key role in a cam­paign to sup­port pro-Moscow sep­a­ratists in Ukraine, an­grily de­nied be­ing part of any ‘so-called pro­pa­ganda net­work’.

The ex­tra­or­di­nary de­vel­op­ment comes af­ter it was re­vealed that Mr Mur­ray has been work­ing in the Labour leader’s of­fice for the past year with­out se­cu­rity clear­ance as the Com­mons au­thor­i­ties have failed to grant his re­quest for a pass.

The Mail on Sun­day has been told by a se­nior Parliamentary source that Mr Mur­ray’s au­tho­ri­sa­tion has been held up by ‘vet­ting prob­lems’.

Com­mons se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers take their de­ci­sion based on ad­vice from Govern­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing the po­lice and in­tel­li­gence sources,

‘This us not a step we ever take lightly’

and passes are usu­ally is­sued within a few weeks.

Mr Mur­ray, who was a mem­ber of the Com­mu­nist party for 40 years, helped to launch a cam­paign in 2014 called Sol­i­dar­ity With The An­tifas­cist Re­sis­tance In Ukraine (SARU) to protest at the West’s back­ing of the Kiev regime. Rus­sia made its first in­cur­sions into Ukrainian ter­ri­tory that year.

Af­ter Pres­i­dent Putin an­nexed Crimea and backed pro-Moscow sep­a­ratist forces in the self­de­clared Donetsk and Luhansk Peo­ple’s Re­publics, Mr Mur­ray used SARU events to de­scribe the con­flict as ‘a war waged by the Kiev govern­ment’ against ‘peo­ples ex­er­cis­ing their right to self-rule’.

In­stead of blam­ing Putin’s regime for the blood­shed, Mr Mur­ray has pointed the finger at the pro-Western Kiev govern­ment for obey­ing the ‘dic­tates’ of the EU and Nato.

He also ques­tioned whether Moscow was re­spon­si­ble for the shoot­ing down of the Malaysia Air­lines flight MH17, killing all 283 pas­sen­gers and 15 crew, over East­ern Ukraine in that year.

This news­pa­per spoke to a serv­ing SBU of­fi­cer in Kiev this week­end who claimed that Mr Mur­ray had been put on the banned list be­cause he was ‘re­garded as be­ing part of Putin’s global pro­pa­ganda net­work, ped­dling Rus­sian lies, par­tic­u­larly about Crimea and the war in East­ern Ukraine’.

He added: ‘It is ex­tremely un­usual for us to ban any­one from en­ter­ing the coun­try, es­pe­cially a Bri­ton.

‘It is not a step we take lightly and it means he is con­sid­ered a po­ten­tial threat to our national se­cu­rity.’

In a for­mal state­ment, the SBU said: ‘We made a de­ci­sion to ban the en­trance of the cit­i­zen of Great Bri­tain [Mr Mur­ray] start­ing from June 2018 for 3 years based on the law of Ukraine about the le­gal state of for­eign cit­i­zens ... in or­der to in­sure the national se­cu­rity of Ukraine’.

Mr Mur­ray, the chief of staff to Len McCluskey at the Unite union, is on sec­ond­ment to Mr Cor­byn’s of­fice, where sources said he wields ‘sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence’.

Mr Mur­ray only left the Bri­tish Com­mu­nist party to join Labour when Mr Cor­byn took over as leader in 2016. He has de­fended the Rus­sian tyrant Stalin, sug­gest­ing his regime was bet­ter than liv­ing in the West, and ex­pressed ‘sol­i­dar­ity’ with North Korea.

Mr Cor­byn, whose so­cial­ist be­liefs came un­der close scru­tiny ear­lier this year when he ini­tially ques­tioned the Govern­ment’s be­lief that the Krem­lin was re­spon­si­ble for poi­son­ing for­mer Rus­sian dou­ble-agent Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter Yu­lia in Sal­is­bury, re­lies heav­ily on Mr Mur­ray for ad­vice and has praised his ‘enor­mous abil­i­ties’.

At a SARU event in Novem­ber 2014, Mr Mur­ray re­ferred to the shoot­ing down of flight MH17 four months ear­lier.

He de­scribed the crash as ‘a pro­pa­ganda point that will be es­tab­lished in peo­ple’s minds and then the pro­pa­ganda band­wagon moves on to try to ob­scure what is ac­tu­ally go­ing on’.

The Rus­sian govern­ment de­nies re­spon­si­bil­ity for the crash. But in Oc­to­ber 2015, in­ter­na­tional air­line in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded that the air­liner had been downed by a Buk sur­face-to-air mis­sile, launched from pro-Rus­sian sep­a­ratist-con­trolled ter­ri­tory, which had been trans­ported from Rus­sia on the day of the crash.

The Stop The War cam­paign group, which Mr Mur­ray founded, has also been ac­cused of ped­dling Krem­lin pro­pa­ganda.

On July 21, 2014, the group pub­lished an on­line ar­ti­cle com­par­ing the down­ing of MH17 to the death of Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand, which led to the First World War. Leaked emails from the Krem­lin show that Vladislav Surkov, an aide to the Rus­sian pres­i­dent, had in­structed Rus­sia’s agents of in­flu­ence to make a ‘com­par­i­son of the col­lapse of the Malaysian Boe­ing with the as­sas­si­na­tion of Franz Fer­di­nand’ to muddy the wa­ters over whether Rus­sia was re­spon­si­ble. At the time, Stop The War was chaired by Mr Cor­byn and Mr Mur­ray was its deputy pres­i­dent.

In an in­ter­view last year, Mr Mur­ray also said Rus­sia’s in­ter­ven­tion in the Mid­dle East was ‘minis­cule com­pared with the se­rial and dis­as­trous in­ter­ven­tions of the Western pow­ers’.

Mr Mur­ray is one of two Cor­byn aides work­ing in the Com­mons with­out se­cu­rity clear­ance.

The Labour leader’s pri­vate sec­re­tary, Iram Awan, has not been granted a pass for nine months – al­legedly be­cause of con­cerns about her as­so­ciates.

Ms Awan was an ac­tivist with the Left Unity pres­sure group be­fore she was called up to work for Mr Cor­byn late last year. She has rou­tinely been es­corted through se­cu­rity at Par­lia­ment by mem­bers of Cor­byn’s team, while Mr Mur­ray has been seen slip­ping into the Com­mons via a back en­trance.

The au­thor­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether any rules have been bro­ken be­cause it is against Parliamentary rules for staff to use vis­i­tors’ passes in or­der to work.

Com­mons passes may be re­fused if there are se­cu­rity con­cerns in­clud­ing ev­i­dence that ‘an in­di­vid­ual may be sus­cep­ti­ble to pres­sure or im­proper in­flu­ence’.

A spokesper­son for Mr Mur­ray said: ‘Andrew com­pletely re­jects the sug­ges­tion of be­ing part of a so-called pro­pa­ganda net­work and is a fre­quent critic of Putin and his govern­ment. He has never been to Ukraine, nor has any plans to visit the coun­try’.

Asked about the fail­ure to re­ceive his Com­mons pass, the spokesper­son said: ‘We don’t com­ment on staffing mat­ters.’

A Labour source said: ‘We have not been told that any mem­ber of staff has been re­fused a pass or any rea­sons why any pass may not yet have been granted.’

Mur­ray has also failed to se­cure a Com­mons pass

APOL­O­GIST: Andrew Mur­ray, cir­cled, at a SARU event where he has blamed the West, not Moscow, for Ukraine blood­shed

RIGHT-HAND MAN: Andrew Mur­ray and Jeremy Cor­byn at the BBC. Be­low: The SBU de­clares its ban on him en­ter­ing the coun­try

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