London (AFP) – Russia’s Ambassador to Britain has requested a meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to discuss the fallout from last month’s poisoning of an ex-spy in the English city of Salisbury, the Russian Embassy said Saturday.
“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,” a spokesperson told AFP.
“Unfortunately, the current state of the foreign office interaction with the embassy is utterly unsatisfactory.”
The spokesperson said Yakovenko had sent a “personal note” to Johnson asking for the meeting.
“We hope that the British side will engage constructively and that such (a) meeting is arranged shortly,” the spokesperson added.
Britain’s Foreign Office said it had received the request and would be “responding in due course”.
Relations between London and Moscow have plumbed new lows in recent weeks following the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4.
The conditions of the Skripals has continued to improve this week, with the ex-spy no longer in critical condition, the hospital treating him said, and his daughter saying Thursday her strength was “growing daily”.
Britain and its Western allies have blamed the attack on Moscow, accusing it of targeting the pair with a Soviet-made military-grade nerve agent, known as novichok.
Russia has vehemently denied any involvement in the case.
The crisis has led to the biggest wave of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats in recent memory.
In the latest departures, some 60 American diplomats who were ordered to leave flew out of Moscow on Thursday.
The US unveiled new sanctions Friday against seven of Russia’s most influential oligarchs, to which Moscow promised a “tough response”.
A meeting between Johnson and Yakovenko would bring together two of the most vocal players in the crisis.
The ambassador held a 90-minute press conference this week in which he denied Russia had ever produced novichok and suggested Britain may be behind the Skripal poisoning.
And last month he wrote to a UK policeman hospitalised after exposure to the nerve agent used in Salisbury, insisting on Moscow’s innocence and thanking him for his bravery.
Meanwhile Johnson publicly agreed last month with a British lawmaker’s assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin would exploit the 2018 football World Cup in Russia as Adolf Hitler did the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
The charge prompted an angry response from the Kremlin, which branded the comments “disgusting”.