NEWS
07/04/2018 14:18 BST | Updated 07/04/2018 21:42 BST

Foreign Office Calls Russian Demand For Boris Johnson Meeting 'Diversionary Tactic'

'It’s Russia’s response that has been unsatisfactory'.

Francois Lenoir / Reuters
Russian officials have called for a meeting with Boris Johnson 

British officials has called a Russian request to meet Boris Johnson to discuss the Salisbury poisoning a “diversionary tactic”.

The Foreign Office confirmed that it had received a request from the Russian Embassy for a meeting with Johnson, one of the most vocal Government critics of Vladimir Putin’s regime over the nerve agent attack on former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

A spokeswoman said: “It’s Russia’s response that has been unsatisfactory.

“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.

“We will of course consider their request and respond in due course.”

 

In a statement posted on its website on Saturday, the Russian Embassy said its “interaction” with the Foreign Office was “utterly unsatisfactory”.

They added: “We believe that it is high time to arrange a meeting between Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in order to discuss the whole range of bilateral issues, as well as the investigation of the Salisbury incident.

“Ambassador Yakovenko has already sent a respective personal note to the Foreign Secretary.

“We hope that the British side will engage constructively and that such meeting is arranged shortly.”

Rex Features
Sergei Skripal is said to 'improving rapidly' following the nerve agent attack in March 

Moscow has denied being responsible for the poisoning of the Skripals but the incident has plunged diplomatic relations between Russia and the West into the deep freeze.

The Russian Embassy had previously said it hoped the improvement in the Skripals’ health will “contribute to the investigation of the crime perpetrated against them”.

The request from Russia comes amid speculation that the Skripals, who are both recovering from the nerve agent attack, could aid officers investigating the incident. 

Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were left fighting for their lives after being found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury on March 4.

The former double agent is “responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and no longer in a critical condition”, Salisbury District Hospital said.

Skripal made her first public comments on Wednesday shortly after Russian TV reported that she had contacted her cousin Viktoria in Moscow to say she and her father were recovering and that she would soon be discharged.

The UK authorities have refused to grant Viktoria Skripal a visa to come to Britain, with the Home Office saying her application “did not comply with the immigration rules”.