WASHINGTON, D.C. — A key political adviser to the leader of Britain’s main opposition party, who has been banned from entering Ukraine by its Security Service of Ukraine intelligence agency known as the SBU, is suggesting Kyiv colluded with British intelligence in an attempt to discredit him.

Andrew Murray is a former prominent communist and since 2017 chief of staff to Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party.  On Sept. 16, it  emerged that the SBU regards him as part of the Kremlin’s propaganda network and has banned him from entering Ukraine.

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Murray labeled the EuroMaidan Revolution, which forced President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia on Feb. 22, 2014, as fascist coup-makers taking orders from Washington, D.C., defended Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, and tried to cast doubt on Moscow’s responsibility for the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17.  

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Murray was a diehard Communist Party member for 36 years until resigning months before taking up his post with Corbyn, where he is a regarded as one of the Labour leader’s most important guiders on policy. He helped start a group called “Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine in 2014,” which staged protests outside the Ukrainian Embassy in London condemning as fascists the new government which came to power in a revolution triggered by pro-democracy protesters being beaten and shot by security forces in Kyiv. 

He has made comments defending Joseph Stalin, defended the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia and has appeared on the Kremlin’s “Russia Today” television propaganda channel.

Murray wrote in this week’s British left-wing publication “New Statesman”  that he only learned of his three year ban from the conservative Mail on Sunday newspaper last weekend and said he’d never tried to go to Ukraine and “Nor was I planning a political visit to a country where the parliamentary speaker is a Hitler admirer and pogromists and Nazi collaborators are national heroes”.

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He suggested that the SBU had colluded with UK spies and the British “deep state” of conservative establishment types in a conspiracy to discredit him and undermine the Labour Party, which hopes to form a government after the next parliamentary elections.

“The denial to me of Commons security clearance and a raft of hostile stories suggests the intelligence services may be working to block the election of a Labour government………We are often told that the days of secret state political chicanery are long past and we must hope so. But sometimes you have to wonder – this curiously timed episode seems less rooted in a Kyiv security scare than in a political stunt closer to home,” he said.

Murray has been friends with Corbyn for many years. He worked as a journalist for Soviet-era Novosti Press Agency before getting a senior position in one of the UK’s most powerful unions, Unite, a major Labour Party cash donor. Both were prominent in the Left-wing ‘Stop the War Coalition’  which opposed the west’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Many mocked it as ‘Stop Certain Wars’  after the coalition tried to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Murray is not the only senior member of Corbyn’s staff that has been outspokenly critical of the Maidan and the current Ukrainian government. Corbyn appointed Seumas Milne, another far-leftist, in 2015 as the Labour Party’s Executive Director of Strategy and Communications. Milne has said that Stalin’s crimes have been exaggerated and the dictator had brought about economic advances in the USSR.  Milne, like Murray, has defended Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, seizure of Crimea and the Russian downing of Malaysian Flight MH-17. 

Both advisers and Corbyn himself have been heavily criticized for raising doubts about the Kremlin’s responsibility for using a military-grade nerve agent in an assassination attempt in Britain earlier this year. British police say they have proof two Kremlin agents, identified by CCTV recordings, tried to kill a Russian spy who defected to the UK and his daughter.  The two survived after doctors struggled for weeks to save their lives. But in June two Britons who, by chance, found the discarded Novichok poison container, were contaminated and one died. 

Mick Antoniw was born in the UK and is proud of his Ukrainian heritage. He is a senior Labour Party member of the Welsh assembly and was its equivalent of attorney general.

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He told the Kyiv Post:  “There’s quite a bit of disdain for Murray and Milne within the Labour Party and they’ve been told, as I understand, to keep their noses out of foreign policy issues to do with Ukraine and Russia etc. 

“They’re in the residue of the Communist Party for whom the Maidan was an American-inspired fascist coup and all that nonsense.  They are a very small and increasingly discredited group because people have seen what’s happened with Putin and the nerve agent poisonings in Salisbury. People are increasingly aware that Putin is the main instigator of the coordination of fascist groups around Europe. Look at the conferences he’s held in Crimea, the funding and links and promotion of fascist groups in France, Greece, Italy, Hungary etc. I think the fact that Putin’s actions constitute a fascist invasion of Ukraine is increasingly recognized.”

Asked why many leftists like Murray and Milne still support Moscow, ruled by a Putin who espouses a corrupt system of unbridled greed and wealth acquisition rather than communism, Antoniw said: “They are a residual element of people for whom the issue is American imperialism and NATO, which they see as a tool of American imperialism. If America and NATO is supporting something, Ukraine for instance, they oppose it in a ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ kind of  logic and the friend in this case is Moscow.”

Antoniw believes that as John McDonnell, the number two in the Labour Party, is pro-Ukrainian and has been very active in meetings of the Labour Party’s Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, Murray and Milne’s influence on Ukrainian issues will wane.

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Antoniw, who has been active in politics since his student days, worked for decades to acquaint the Labour Party with Ukraine’s independence struggle, when the USSR still existed. Since independence he has publicized Ukraine’s ambitions to integrate with the West, the EU and NATO. He has tried to forge ties between British and Ukrainian trade unions. This summer he brought a group of British miners to meet with their Ukrainian counterparts in government-held Donbas and to take part there in independence celebrations.  He has brought over Ukrainian delegations to meet with Labour Party and  UK National Union of Mineworkers representatives inn Britain.

He said Ukraine shouldn’t fear a Corbyn government if one comes about in the future: “If I thought that Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister was going to seriously damage Ukraine then I wouldn’t be in the Labour Party.”

Both members of Murray and Milne’s own Labour Party as well as members of parliament from the ruling Conservative Party have criticized the two. 

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Anna Reid, a journalist, author of “Borderlands,” a book about Ukraine, and on the board of the Ukrainian Institute in London, which provides a forum for discussions about Ukraine, said: “Milne and Murray’s idiocies are part of a pattern of knee-jerk anti-Americanism on the British far left. If Putin successfully teases Washington they are behind him, no matter how he behaves at home. They have no genuine interest in either Russia or Ukraine – both are just fodder for rhetoric.”

She was less sanguine than Antoniw about Corbyn’s policy toward Ukraine if he becomes prime minister calling it “an awful thought”. However, she said: “Usually of course people become more pragmatic in power. And the civil service and parliament would probably block his stupidest moves. Corbyn’s popularity is down to his domestic radicalism, not his cranky foreign policy, and Putin is so loathed by the British public – especially after the Salisbury poisonings – that I expect he will shut up on Russia come the next elections.”

The Labour Party Press Office, Murray and Milne were asked for comments by the Kyiv Post, but failed to respond.

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