Britain FM to visit Moscow first time in five years amid cold relations


LONDON, DEC 22 (DNA) – British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Friday will hold talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the first official visit by a minister from London in five years. The visit could signal an improvement in relations after years of antagonism. It comes after Johnson in April cancelled a planned trip at the last minute over Russia’s support for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Britain’s outspoken foreign secretary himself said he holds out little hope that ties with Moscow could undergo a full-blown transformation.

Johnson said he was “no cold warrior”, but he did “not believe for a second that relations with Russia can be reset”.

The Russian foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday the diplomatic chiefs planned to “look for ways to normalise and activate the bilateral relationship.”

“Unfortunately, cutting short bilateral dialogue with Russia was London’s choice,” Zakharova said, calling the move “completely unfounded”. She, however, added that the visit “long-awaited”.

Relations between London and Moscow soured after Britain sought to prosecute suspects in the killing of Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko, murdered by radiation poisoning in London in 2006.

Britain has also been a fervent supporter of Western sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict and annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The relationship suffered further blows after Russia’s intervention in the Syria conflict on the side of the Damascus regime in September 2015.