April 7, 2018 / 11:36 AM / 3 months ago

Russian envoy seeks meeting with Britain's Johnson over poisoning

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian embassy in London has sent a request for a meeting of its envoy with British foreign minister Boris Johnson to discuss the case of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter poisoned in Salisbury, the RIA news agency reported on Saturday.

A coat of arms is seen on a gate outside of the Russian embassy in London, Britain, March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

“We hope for a constructive response from the British side and are counting on such a meeting in the very nearest future,” the agency cited a spokesman for the Russian embassy saying.

The Foreign Office confirmed it had received the request for ambassador Alexander Yakovenko to meet Johnson, but called the request a diversionary tactic.

“We will be responding in due course,” it said in a statement.

Relations between Russia and Britain have plunged to their lowest for decades since former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped unconscious on a bench in Salisbury last month.

Both were found to be suffering from the effects of a nerve agent but are now recovering in hospital.

Britain blamed Russia for the poisoning and asked it to explain what happened but Russia denies any involvement and has suggested Britain itself carried out the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

Both have subsequently accused each other of trying to deceive the world with an array of claims, counter-claims and threats.

At a session of the executive of the global chemical weapons watchdog earlier this week, Russia called for a joint inquiry into the poisoning of the Skripals but lost a vote on the motion.

The two then swapped insults at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday where Russia warned Britain it was “playing with fire” by accusing Moscow.

Saturday’s Foreign Office statement said: “It’s over three weeks since we asked Russia to engage constructively and answer a number of questions relating to the attempted assassinations of Mr Skripal and his daughter.

“Now, after failing in their attempts in the UN and international chemical weapons watchdog this week and with the victims’ condition improving, they seem to be pursuing a different diversionary tactic.”

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Stephen Addison; editing by Jason Neely and Stephen Powell

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