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There is obviously something both confusing and concerning about Russia and its effect on Winston Peters as evidenced by his performance in Parliament this afternoon, National Foreign Affairs spokesman Todd McClay says.

“Mr Peters simply can’t bring himself to do what dozens of Governments already have, and hold the Kremlin accountable for the attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

“Again today Mr Peters was dancing around the issue of who poisoned the Skripals, suggesting some other party besides the Kremlin might have been responsible.

“When asked in Parliament ‘has he received sufficient evidence that Russia is responsible for the Salisbury nerve agent attack on British soil?’ Mr Peters responded: ‘To the best of anyone’s investigations of thus far, the product looks like it was manufactured in Russia, that it was sourced out of Russia, about as to who the perpetrators of that violent terrorist crime, that is still a matter of substantial investigation in the UK.’

“That answer is simply astonishing,” Mr McClay says.

“It suggests dozens of countries have jumped the gun in expelling suspected Russian intelligence agents from their countries.

“Winston Peters has taken the Government right back to where it was when the Prime Minister instigated damage control last Friday evening by issuing a clarifying statement that didn’t quite finger Russia as responsible, but at least said ‘Russia has serious questions to answer.’

“Has Mr Peters’ bought into the Kremlin’s theory that the UK Government might be responsible for attempting to kill the Skripals?

“Is the New Zealand Government saying Theresa May and the Governments who have supported her have got this wrong?

“Is this the real reason New Zealand hasn’t expelled any diplomats?

“It’s time for Jacinda Ardern to step up, pull Mr Peters into line, and finally show some real leadership in what is becoming an Achilles’ heel for this Government.”

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