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Russia's most famous dissident
tells me he believes Putin
himself has lost control
of the Russian state.
in my opinion, this inner circle
within the criminal gang has learned
how to manipulate Putin
And we've seen this
demonstrated a number of times.
Meanwhile, Russia's defence agency
accuses the government
here of intellectually impotency
and calls the defence
minister a vulgar old harpy.
They were responding to this:
Russia should go away -
it should shut up.
Jeremy Corbyn seems to have
been more cautious.
Was he right to be?
Or does he risk
isolating his own party?
Also tonight, seven years to the day
since the Syrian uprising began,
thousands flee Eastern Ghouta.
We speak to one who's remained.
And a post-Joy Luck Club Amy Tan
talks to Stephen Smith.
I had to find something
as a distraction but also I had
to find beauty in the world.
I had to be able to see it.
The Russians tend not
to mince their words.
Having accused the Defence Secretary
of intellectual impotence,
the Russian Ministry of Defence
described Great Britain
as "the headquarters for fake
scandal", and called Russia's
accusers "completely insignificant".
the Prime Minister herself.
Russia's Foreign Minister,
Sergei Lavrov, then called her
accusations crazy, and suggested
the British government
was probably keen to deflect
attention from its troubles
May's European allies, however,
have rallied to the cause.
Tonight, we have an exclusive
interview with an oligarch in exodus
- once Russia's richest man,
and once a convict
in a Siberian gulag.
He sees things rather differently
to the government back home.
First to Mark Urban on the latest
from Salisbury and how
the West responds now.
What is your sense of how things are
hotting up diplomatically?
the war of words you had some of the
quotes from, this remarkable
statement from the Foreign Minister,
Sergey Lavrov, that it is an attempt
to deflect from Brexit. You also
have the more formal business that
has been going on, the contact with
allies, issuing this statement today
from the UK, France, Germany and the
United States, pretty tough from the
so-called Quad, it read like it was
drafted from the British. Their
language, highly likely the Russians
did it, etc, but what we will see
emerging from this and we will have
further steps from Nato and possibly
at the European summit next week is
a feeling they have caught the
Russians between two fires, eye that
you did it or are you allowed
something you had to be stolen or
used by someone who should not have
had it. It is a violation of one of
the most important end of Cold War
treaties, the chemical weapons
Convention, and this is a big moment
in terms of that wider diplomacy as
well as trying to get to the bottom
of how the Skripals were poisoned.
What else have we learned about the
There was a
meeting tonight with the police and
health authorities to talk to local
people who were concerned and more
came out in that. They revealed that
46 people had been to hospital
complaining of symptoms, all had
been checked but allowed to go home.
It is only those three, the Skripal
Bubba and Detective Sergeant Bailey
who are in hospital. I also worked
out, and they must be referring to
customers in the pub and in the
Zizzi restaurant, is that 131 people
may have been exposed to the nerve
agent when it was
agent when it was on the Skripals.
But we don't have much information
on their condition, they say
critical but stable, but I have been
told they are in a coma and are on
life support but are there still
signs of life in those two people?
And do we know anything more about
where the nerve agent could have
For some days now we have
been talking of the importance of
the car and if you trace things
backwards, they don't, for example,
talk about traces of the nerve agent
in the home. Some of these theories,
did the door to bring something from
Moscow, that opened up and
contaminated them, you would have
expected that in the home. The
police clearly feel the car is
critical. It was heavily
contaminated from even the tow truck
that took it away was contaminated.
The feeling is, could somebody had
got into it between the hours of 1pm
and 1:40pm, this was the police
appeal a couple of days ago. We
still don't know exactly where it
was, who could have had access to it
and depending on where it was, can
they get CCTV coverage that might
show someone getting access to it?
Thank you very much.
Last week, Theresa May pointed
the finger at Putin.
But what if Putin himself
is being controlled?
It was a theory put to me today
by Russia's most famous dissident.
Earlier, I sat down
with Michael Khodorkovsky,
at one time Russia's richest man
as the billionaire owner of Yukos
oil who spent ten years
in a Siberian gulag under Putin.
He admitted to me the atmosphere has
dramatically changed now
for Russians living in London.
And, in an extraordinary interview,
he alleged that Russia's president
is now surrounded by criminal gangs
who may now have more
power than Putin himself.
I began by asking if he thought
the Russian state was behind
the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.
Which do you think it is?
Just explain to me, do you think the
GRU now has more power potentially
So does Putin ultimately control
this gang or not?
What could the West do now to make
Putin changes actions? Is it
sanctions? Is it kicking people out,
boycotting the World Cup? Do any of
those stand a chance of having a
diplomatic impact if, as you say,
they are dealing with criminals?
So it is about losing face? So it is
about refusing him access or time on
the international stage at a G-7 or
G8 or a of leaders?
Let me ask you bluntly, you have
accused Putin of criminal behaviour,
do you not fear for your life here?
It has been said there are more
spies from Russia in London now that
at the height of the Cold War, do
you believe that?
What would you call them?
You have the elections in Russia on
Sunday, what should Russian people
do when it comes to voting? Do you
think the electorate control the
What will make Putin feel he is
This is extraordinary to hear. Your
painting Putin himself as a puppet
of terminal elements of a gang. --
Michael Khodorkovsky, thank you very
Is the extent of my Russian.
Did Jeremy Corbyn misread the mood
of his party in the Commons
yesterday when he refused to point
the finger at Russia?
Last night, a group of Labour
backbenchers said it unequivocally
accepts the Russian state's
culpability for the spy poisoning.
Overnight they were joined
by senior frontbenchers
who command the defence
and foreign affairs briefs.
Today, Corbyn clarified,
stressing his condemnation
of the attack and saying
the evidence pointed towards Russia.
But he reiterated the need not
to rush ahead of evidence
in what he refered to as the fevered
atmosphere of Westminster.
Is he right to go slowly?
Or is more cross-party solidarity
called for at a time when a foreign
agent appears to be targeting people
on British soil?
Here's David Grossman.
Does Labour have a Russia problem?
That, at least, is the worry
of a significant number
of Labour backbenchers.
That yesterday's Commons
performance from Jeremy Corbyn
was insufficiently robust,
too willing to criticise
the British government,
not prepared to lay the blame
squarely on Russia.
This is the early day motion then?
John Woodcock is a long-term Labour
critic of Mr Corbyn and he's getting
Labour MPs to sign a Commons motion
to signal support for
the government response.
What I think the public can be
reassured on is that the vast
majority of MPs from all sides
of the house back this approach
that the government has set out
and we will stand firm together
against the threat
that Russia poses.
Why do you think your leader has
a problem being as clear
as you would like him
to be, it appears?
I don't know and I'm sure
he will come on to Newsnight
to tell you why himself,
or maybe his spokesman will.
There is obviously, around Jeremy,
for many years, been people who have
had strong links to former
Soviet Russia and
the current regime.
It might seem strange that such
admiration of Russia from sections
of the British left should survive
the fall of communism.
Not so, says this historian.
I think you need to see
that their view for many years
was that because the Soviet Union
was socialist, as they were,
the Soviets were essentially
their allies against the capitalist
West, particularly America.
That was the view that
existed right the way
through until the fall of communism.
But that pervading dislike,
hatred even, of the capitalist West,
of America, of Nato,
has stayed with the British left.
And as it's stayed with the British
left, they've actually looked
to some of those nations like Russia
as potential allies.
So, although the Russian system has
actually has morphed
into mega capitalism,
or whatever you might
like to describe it,
in point of fact, they still see
Russia as a potential ally
against the number one enemy.
Which is America.
Which is the capitalist West.
Which is Nato.
Good on you, Jeremy.
You're the only one
who's speaking sense.
Jeremy Corbyn himself
was in Carlisle today.
He denies he's been
unclear or equivocal
on the Salisbury attack.
But he did today use a much
stronger form of words.
The evidence points towards Russia
on this, therefore,
the responsibility must be brought
by those that made the weapon,
those that brought the weapon
into the country and those that
used the weapon.
What I was asking was questions,
questions about the identity
of the weapon, questions
about the reference to the weapons
Convention, and also the support
of other allies in this.
Those are the questions
I was asking.
That's what oppositions
are there for.
Shadow Cabinet allies of Mr Corbyn
told me that it's absolutely not
the case that Labour is in any way
blind to the sinister character
of the Russian government.
I think it's important that people
take me at my word on this.
I am no friend of Mr Putin.
His human rights record,
his autocracy, his kleptocracy.
But nonetheless, we have learnt
in this country in recent years
the importance of complying
with international law.
And do you think Mr Corbyn may have,
in hindsight, have phrased himself
Do you think that might have helped?
I think that Jeremy Corbyn is
with me on this, and I am with him.
Getting professional advice
on how to clean up a mess?
It's not clear that a single member
of the public queueing for selfies
with Mr Corbyn today had any
concerns about his stance on Russia.
Among his MPs back at Westminster,
it is another story and one that may
yet have consequences.
That was David Grossman.
I am now joined by Ayesha Hazarika.
She is a writer, commentator
and broadcaster who has previously
been a special advisor to both
Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband.
Also joining us, Chris Williamson.
He's a cheerleader for the Corbyn
leadership who won back his
Derby North seat in 2017
after losing it at the 2015
He said his campaign in Derby North
was "a shining example of how Labour
can win broad support in marginal
constituencies whilst maintaining
socialist principles to its core".
A long introduction but it gives you
a bit of hinterland. I'm going to
start with you, Chris. Jeremy Corbyn
seems to have firmed up his response
today. I wonder if you think he
sensed he got the mood wrong in the
Conservative backbenchers were
indulging in bellicose rhetoric that
was unhelpful and Jeremy was clear
and statesman-like in what he said.
Clearly, it looks like the evidence
points to Russia and he made that
clear. Before we leap into action we
need to make sure, it seems to me,
that we do get the facts right. We
know the kind of crony capitalism in
Russia and the kind of oligarch...
The difference is he wasn't
unequivocal and his front bench
were, we heard from Neil Griffiths
and Emily Thornberry who were in
stark contrast to him, very clear
that they should be aligned with the
government on this and they had no
Jeremy has been on the
right side of history for the last
35 years, on the right side of
history on Libya, Afghanistan and in
relation to Iraq.
Which side of
history is he on now? Is he on the
Russian side of history?
about being nice to Russia, it's
about taking a statesman-like
approach and making sure we get our
ducks in a row and get our facts
straight. It looks pretty clear that
this nerve agent came from Russia.
What isn't clear is whether the
Russian state was involved, or
indeed some Mafi McCallum Dynavolt.
The Soviet Union comprised a number
of different countries...
exactly what the Prime Minister was
saying -- or indeed some
saying -- or indeed some Mafi --
All parties have
dissidents from time to time but
they are irrelevant and not in
keeping with the vast majority of
the British public and Labour Party
His point was the
opposition ask questions and he is
the opposition and he did it in a
I think he misjudged
the tone in the Commons and I think
he has sort of acknowledged that by
his clarifying article in the
Guardian today which I think is the
right thing to have done. Because
people were not completely clear
about what he was saying. And
actually, some very, very senior
members of the Shadow Cabinet who
are great supporters of Jeremy
Corbyn, have privately said to me,
they just wished that in that moment
he had been completely crystal clear
about the condemnation.
holding him back do you think?
don't know. I think possibly, as
Chris alluded to, he wants to tread
cautiously. Make no mistake, there
is nothing ignoble about proceeding
with a cool head but nobody is
suggesting a sort of rushed to war
or anything. But in this
situation... I don't know if that's
entirely fair. But in this situation
it's a big moment. You have two
people who have had an attempted
assassination and a police officer
injured, imagine if the nerve agent
had gone off in the London Tube.
What did you want from?
It was a
real moment, he's made fantastic
progress on domestic issues but on
the international question come on
security which is a concern to a lot
of people, I wanted him to rise to
the location and send a message he
took this seriously and it wasn't a
time for party politics, it was a
time for the national interest.
perception David Grossman raised in
the film was that there was a grip
on the left who had this undying
affection for all things Russian
that seem not to have moved on from
Soviet Russia to Putin be oligarch,
the kleptocracy, the modern Russia
that we know now.
In relation to
judging the mood of the
Just answer that one.
I will come onto that the Jeremy
judged the mood of the nation,
that's the important thing.
Parliament gets things wrong and
they got things wrong on Iraq and
And on Syria, you could
I've debated with him, the
guy is obsessed and it is utter
nonsense. Jeremy and the left...
think he is obsessed with saying
that the left has an affection for
Russia? So there is no affection
Jeremy, John MacDonald,
the Labour Party has been calling
for action against the oligarchy,
the dirty money in this country,
against money-laundering. We called
for a version of the Magnitsky Act.
If we are serious about dealing with
this kind of crony capitalism,
dealing with the Mafia state, why is
it this government voted down
attempts to bring in that
legislation? Why is it they are in
hock to Russian oligarchs? They are
accepting millions of pounds from
There is a lot in
that and definitely starving the
cache is an important part of this.
We have been calling for that for a
We need to take a step
back and where I disagree with Chris
is this has come through to people,
I was speaking to people not in our
political bubble and they are
worried about this and there are now
potentially 14 other deaths that are
being investigated as having links
to the Kremlin. This is a very, very
serious situation. Shami Chakrabarti
is right. We are a party that is
internationalist in our approach, we
believe in human rights,
international law and processes and
you can't just have another country
going around assassinating people on
your soil without any consequences.
Is that still... This is one area
Jeremy Corbyn has properly stuck to
his arms and his guts and it's a
very different position to...
I had... And in some ways I admire
your moral certainty about Jeremy
being on the right side of
everything. These conflicts and
geopolitics is really difficult.
There aren't any glib right and
wrong easy solutions in all of this
and I think right now you have a
tiger by the tail and nobody knows
how to handle Putin. He is a thug
writ large across the world. Look at
Ukraine, him propping up Assad in
Syria, this isn't a person we want
to be associated with.
As the opposition we need
to show responsibility and
solidarity for the national interest
and not just party interest.
what Jeremy did and it's not just
about going along with the crowd.
think he missed the moment, the
you for joining us. Thousands of
civilians have fled the Syrian town
of Hammouriyeh and its surrounding
areas in the rebel enclave of
The Observatory for Human Rights -
a watchdog based in Britain -
called it the biggest exodus
of displaced people since the regime
launched an offensive
on the enclave a month ago.
Today marks seven years
since the uprising in Syria
began when activists -
once optimistic of change -
called for a Day of Rage.
Seven years that have transformed
and wrecked a country.
Seven years that have killed more
of its people than may
ever be fully counted.
Looking at the history of the war in
Joining me now is Ahmad Khanshour,
a father and activist
based in Eastern Ghouta.
Thank you for joining us. You were
one of the original activists who
decided to take on that March seven
years ago. Cast your mind back and
tell us what you believe they would
Good evening, Emily.
Well, that video brought a lot of
memories to me and a lot of emotion.
In fact, it has been a tough seven
years. It was the toughest but
despite all the violence we still
have hope. We still keep faith and
personally I never believed more in
my right as a human being for
freedom and democracy. I surely
remember seven years ago I couldn't
do it, by the way on the 15th, I did
it on the 18th because I was away
from my city. Per day when I hugged
my first friend who was shot by
Bashar Al-Assad's security services.
That day I was determined that I
shall rise up and fight for my
You and your family were
caught up after that in the sarin
attack of 2013.
Exactly. It has many
milestones in our journey towards
where we are right now. I live in
Eastern Ghouta. I have always loved
Eastern Ghouta, as I love my country
Syria, as you love your country,
Emily. We were caught in the middle
of the brutal siege since the
beginning of 2013. We have been
caught in the sarin attacks, which
killed over 1200 people. 1200
people, can you believe it, in the
21st-century, were killed because of
sarin gas in Syria? Me, myself, my
family, were among the people who
suffered, wounded because of that
attack. Many were lucky that they
died. Many milestones.
Did you think
that would be the end of the war?
Did you think that would be the
Exactly, exactly. I
thought the first time I held
somebody who was shot by the Assad
regime I thought that's it, nobody
will allow this maniac to keep on
killing innocent people just because
they asked for some freedom. But
nobody even cared. When the siege
was very tight amongst us we had to
eat the grass is from the land and
the ground. I thought, that's it.
Many of the world leaders drew red
lines that if a -- Assad stepped on
them they would be changed and he
stepped on many of them and stepped
on many words and nobody did
Let me just ask you, many
have left Eastern Ghouta now. You
have chosen to remain. Why?
remain. Do you remember your first
car, do you remember the first time
you redecorated your home? Why
should I leave it? Why should I put
myself in a situation that I have to
be killed under bombardment or leave
my country and never come back? I've
seen people that have left their
cities everywhere. They were
unfortunately in displacement and
many other cities. If I leave now I
know I will never come back. There
is too much love I have for this
country, for this city.
Khanshour, thank you for talking to
No one who witnessed those first
pictures of the Grenfell fire can
forget watching how quickly those
flames took hold.
Today, investigators revealed that
fire doors tested from the tower
could only hold back flames for half
the time they were supposed to.
Experts took an undamaged door
from the block and discovered it
could withstand a blaze for merely
15 minutes - not the 30 promised.
Today the Housing Secretary,
Sajid Javid, confirmed
the Government would carry out
further tests but said
there was no evidence that this
was a systemic issue.
Chris Cook, who led
the investigation for Newsnight
into the cladding on Grenfell,
is here now to explain more.
Tell us what you make of the
significance of what they found
It is a very small binding,
about one door they have taken from
Grenfell. They are testing other
doors of the same design. When you
put up a big building, you have to
install component of a certain
amount of fire resistant but the
problem with this one is that it was
sold as a 30 minute door and it is
only a 15 minute door and if more of
the doors that were similarly under
resistant it can explain why the
fire could move so quickly.
broader questions does it raise?
I were selling a new fire door I
would have to get the design mocked
up, take a prototype to the lab and
get it tested and make sure that
what I sold in the shops was the
same as the prototype I had tested.
This rates question about whether
the testing process and the
certification process of the blood
on the market is up to scratch in
England. -- of the goods on the
The Chinese-American writer Amy Tan
has brought The Joy Luck Club
to millions of readers
around the world.
Now she's turned her hand
to a memoir, Where The Past Begins,
which tells the stories of the women
who inspired her fiction, including
her own mother and grandmother.
It makes for often
uncomfortable reading -
forced marriages, abandoned
children, and mental illness,
as well as her own experience
of sexual assault.
She spoke to Stephen Smith.
The stories of my
grandmother keep shifting.
She became a widow and then she was
forced to become a concubine.
The man got into the bed,
put a knife to her throat
and said, "I will kill
you if you do not submit."
Some say that he put a knife
to his own throat and said,
"I will kill myself
if you don't marry me."
She got the best room in that house.
She was the most powerful.
And this is rather odd
because she became the fourth
wife, the oldest wife.
In her memoir, Amy Tan is telling
the stories of the Chinese women
who have inspired her bestselling
novels, women like her own
grandmother and her mother.
Her first husband was an abusive man
and she tried to leave that marriage
for a very long time.
It was 1949 when she
decided to leave.
China was on the cusp of becoming
a Communist country and literally
on the last boat leaving Shanghai
to Hong Kong she was
able to find a ticket.
She was not able to take her
daughters so these three daughters
she had by the first marriage
were left behind.
That harrowing experience
inspired a storyline in one
of Tan's best-known books,
The Joy Luck Club,
which was adapted into a film.
Some people say, oh,
what if your mother had
been a happy person,
not a depressed person?
What if my father and
brother hadn't died?
I wouldn't want to have those
as training ground for becoming
a writer but I think that trauma
forces a person to question life,
to look at why these things happen
and continually try to piece
together a narrative that
explains life to oneself.
Amy Tan's mother remarried
in the States and had a second
family, including Amy herself.
But her mother's past
and her volatile emotions
were a feature of family life.
I came home one day and she had
a cleaver and she backed me
into the bedroom and against a wall.
And she had a crazy look
in her eye she said,
"I'm going to kill you and then John
- my little brother -
and then I'm going to kill myself."
I said, "Do it, just do it."
I mean we were all a little crazy.
And I remember that this
was going to be the end
of my life and it was so sad.
And then a voice came out of me that
said I want to live.
Amy Tan's father was a minister
and she says that as a girl
she suffered sexual abuse
at the hands of a man
from his church.
This man came to my house
to counsel me because I had been
caught reading Catcher
in the Rye by Salinger.
We were in my parents' bedroom
and he said that I was causing
more pain to my father,
who was dying of a brain tumour,
than the tumour was causing him.
And I began to cry.
And after a while he said,
"Don't cry", and he started
to tickle me and I was breathless
because it was so uncomfortable.
And he molested me and I came out
of that room a different girl.
That made me realise that we do have
to talk about these,
they are so common.
Every single woman I know
has gone through this.
Raped at age eight.
I was molested at age 15.
And these things are
with you for life.
When she's not writing,
Tan likes to draw.
A distraction and a solace,
she says, in times of political
uncertainty and animosity.
After the election I had to find
something as a distraction but also
I had to find beauty in the world.
I had to be able to see it
and really focus on it.
I spoke a lot about my fears.
These people in social media
would say things like,
if you don't like it,
go back to China.
You know, what right do you have
to express your opinion?
I didn't come to this page to hear
what you have to say.
And I thought, this is really funny,
this is my Facebook page.
If you don't like it,
you do have the right to leave.
Amy Tan speaking.
Well, that's all for this evening.
But before we go, there's
a case that, when Barack
and Michelle Obama did it in 2008,
it broke out from being simply
the greeting of rappers
and basketball players.
But we think historians will look
back upon today as the pivotal
moment at which the fist bump
went truly mainstream.
HIP HOP MUSIC.