Boris Johnson has told Vladimir Putin there will be no normalisation of the relationship between the UK and Russia, almost two years on from the Salisbury attack.
The pair met in Berlin on the sidelines of an international summit about the future of Libya. According to an account of the conversation released by Downing Street, Johnson stuck closely to the robust stance taken by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.
“He 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,” a spokesperson said.
“The prime minister 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.”
That message was very similar to the one delivered by May at her final G20 summit in Osaka last July, when she and Putin exchanged a frosty handshake for the cameras.
The former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury in March 2018. A local woman, Dawn Sturgess, subsequently died in hospital after accidental contact with the substance.
After the government gathered evidence pointing the finger at Moscow, including identifying two suspects, more than twenty western countries expelled Russian diplomats in a coordinated response.
The No 10 spokesperson said Johnson also pressed Putin on the two countries’ shared responsibility to tackle international challenges including in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Diplomats have been scrambling to understand the significance of last week’s political events in Russia where the entire government resigned.
The prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, is being replaced by another Putin placeman, Mikhail Mishustin, in a move widely interpreted as consolidating Putin’s grip on power.
Donald Trump has called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7 group of industrialised nations, making it the G8 once again as it was before Russia was expelled five years ago after its annexation of Crimea. But that view found little support at last summer’s G7 summit in Biarritz.