MOSCOW – Russia’s foreign minister on Friday met with his counterpart from the United Kingdom and said his government preferred to talk about their differences face-to-face while acknowledging that relations between both countries were at a low point.
Sergey Lavrov and Boris Johnson held a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow in which they openly discussed the policy disagreements between Russia and the UK.
“It’s no secret relations are not good,” Lavrov said. “You prefer to talk about our differences publicly, we prefer to do it face-to-face, not through microphones.”
Meanwhile, Johnson – in the first visit by a British foreign secretary to Russia in five years – said that although it was important to discuss their disagreements, “we mustn’t let ourselves be defined by these problems.”
He also warned the Kremlin to cease its alleged cyber attacks against the West, saying that the UK had the capability to retaliate in kind.
However, Johnson also stressed the need for the two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to cooperate on crucial international matters such as settling the Syrian conflict, fighting to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran and keeping the North Korean threat in check.
Tensions between Russia and the UK have risen in the past few years over issues such as Moscow’s military intervention in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, as well as the 2006 murder in London of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, who had defected to the UK.
A criminal inquiry found that Litvinenko had been poisoned with polonium-210, an extremely rare and toxic radioactive element, and concluded that the assassination was sponsored by the Russian state and likely approved by President Vladimir Putin himself.