Russian ambassador compared to 'Comical Ali' after claiming UK was behind Skripal poisoning to turn the world against the Kremlin

In an extraordinary meeting with MPs, Alexander Yakovenko said the Government had to carry out “something extraordinary” to show Brits that Theresa May was right to brand Russia “public enemy number one”.

Pressed if he really believed UK security services attempted to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, he told Labour’s Chris Bryant: “Yes.”

He said: “There is a public opinion, a general opinion that Russia is enemy number one. It was in your national security strategy.

“The British side was trying to influence the western world against Russia.”

He added: “The people don’t buy this kind on policy. In order to get their support something extraordinary needed to be done in order to make people believe that this is the Russians who did this. That’s exactly what happened.”

Tory MP Bob Seeley said Mr Yakovenko's defence of Russian atrocities such as the Skripal attack and actions in Syria were comparable to ‘Comical Ali’ – Saddam Hussein’s spokesman during the Iraq War.

Tory backbencher Richard Benyon told the ambassador: “If we said it was daytime you would argue it’s night-time.”

The comments came as the ambassador slammed accusations from MI5 boss Andrew Parker that Russia was becoming a “pariah” state, insisting given countries around the world have good relations with the Kremlin.

He said the Russian aircraft turned off ‘transponders’ – which allow them to be identified – over British ships or Baltic states because NATO aircraft didn’t turn on their own.

In an hour’s interrogation by MPs, the ambassador said relations between London and Moscow were so bad Theresa May wouldn’t be able to pick up the phone to Vladimir Putin. “There is no high level contact,” he said.

But he insisted English fans could travel in complete safety to the World Cup in Russia this summer – stating: “Moscow is safer than New York you know.”

Mr Yakovenko was speaking at a meeting held by the cross-party all party parliamentary group on Russia. Labour chair Chris Bryant said Russia had "blown" the chance for better relations.

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