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03/12/2016

Putin and May agree to meet in ‘the near future’

UK & Europe

Putin and May agree to meet in ‘the near future’

Theresa May has condemned the challenge.

[Policy Exchange / Flickr]

Unsatisfied with the current relations between their states, Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Theresa May have agreed to meet in “the near future”, the Kremlin said yesterday (9 August).

During a phone call initiated by London, the two leaders “planned to hold a private meeting in the near future,” the Kremlin said in a statement, without naming a date.

British relations with Russia have soured in recent years, notably over efforts to prosecute the case of Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered by radiation poisoning in London in 2006.

Britain has also been one of the most fervent supporters of Western sanctions against Moscow over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

“While discussing topical issues in Russian-British relations, both sides expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of cooperation in the political, trade and economic spheres,” the Kremlin statement said.

The leaders agreed to intensify “joint work on a number of fronts” including air transportation safety, the statement said.

When May took office last month, Putin said he was ready for “constructive dialogue” with the new British leader.

The Kremlin strongman had accused the British government of being “overconfident” and “superficial” in the June referendum that saw the UK vote to split from the European Union.

Putin warned that the move to leave the EU “will have consequences for the United Kingdom, for all of Europe and for us, of course”.

“What I would like to stress in this respect is that Brexit is the choice Britain’s people have made and we have not and will not interfere in this process,” the Russian President recently said.

“It is clear that this referendum’s traumatic effect will make itself felt for a long time yet. We will see how they all put democratic principles into practice,” he added.

Many observers have said that Brexit would play into Putin’s hands as he has been accused of trying to drive a wedge between EU members.

But Putin in June said that Russia had never “interfered, never expressed our opinion on the matter” and dismissed attempts to associate Moscow with the vote.

A Downing Street spokesman confirmed that Mrs May spoke on the phone with the Russian president.

“The Prime Minister noted the importance of the relationship between the UK and Russia and expressed the hope that, despite differences on certain issues, they could communicate in an open and honest way about the issues that mattered most to them,” the spokesman said.

“The Prime Minister and president agreed that British and Russian citizens faced common threats from terrorism, and that co-operation on aviation security in particular was a vital part of the international counter-terrorism effort.”

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