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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Kremlin insists Putin-Johnson meeting was 'constructive'

AFP , Tuesday 21 Jan 2020
Vladimir Putin and Boris Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet on the sidelides of a Peace summit on Libya in Berlin on January 19, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a constructive meeting at the weekend, the Kremlin said Tuesday, suggesting Britain misrepresented it as delivering a warning to Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists the leaders' first conversation on the sidelines of a Libya summit in Berlin on Sunday was "laconic but at the same time quite constructive with elements of a conciliatory stance."

Peskov claimed the meeting differed from the way it was described by Downing Street, which said Johnson warned Putin not to repeat the 2018 chemical weapon attack that almost killed former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

"At least the essentials of the encounter clearly differ from the essence of the Downing Street statement," Peskov said.

Downing Street said that while meeting Putin, Johnson "was clear there had been no change in the UK's position on Salisbury, which was a reckless use of chemical weapons and a brazen attempt to murder innocent people on UK soil."

"He said that such an attack must not be repeated," Johnson's office said.

Russia has repeatedly rejected accusations that officers from its GRU military intelligence agency used a powerful nerve agent to poison Skripal in retribution for his work with British and other Western spy services.

Putin in December called for "constructive dialogue" with Johnson as he congratulated him on his general election victory.

While meeting Putin, Johnson said "there will be no normalisation of our bilateral relationship until Russia ends the destabilising activity that threatens the UK and our allies and undermines the safety of our citizens and our collective security," his office said.

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