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If you live in Britain, Russia looms large in political discourse, but for those in Moscow, the UK barely registers. Now Russia's envoy to London has delivered a few home truths: he says his country has bigger fish to fry.

"I feel that Britain exaggerates, very much, its place in Russian thinking," Andrei Kelin told the Daily Mail. "The scope and place of Great Britain in Russian politics is not that big. We have other problems of much larger magnitude," the ambassador said.

The ambassador also dismissed the UK media narrative about nefarious Russian 'oligarchs' doing the Kremlin's bidding in London. Kelin pointed out that, in reality, the British capital has turned itself into a haven for wealthy Russians trying to evade justice back home.

Andrei Kelin russia ambassador
© TASS Press Association
Diplomat Andrei Kelin ahead of presenting his credentials to the Queen in February this year.
"Oligarchs mean rich people that can influence the president," he explained. "The last one [oligarch] was about 20 years ago ... those wealthy people living here [in Britain], the bulk of these people simply escaped Russia because they were being pursued for tax evasion, fraud and other criminal activities."

"All of them have left the country just to escape prosecution. If the British authorities will decide to provide us with information about these people or decide to be positive on our demands for extradition, we will only greet this, salute this," he added.

Back in 2018, Russia's former prosecutor general, Yury Chaika, revealed that there were 61 Russian criminals living in London who had stolen around $10 billion from their home country. He expressed concern that Britain's agenda was to pocket the stolen money, quipping, "you can keep the criminals, but return the money. This is our money."

Kelin once again rejected claims that Russia had somehow tried to affect the results of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2019 parliamentary elections in the UK. According to the diplomat, in all these cases, Russia was not politically interested in any particular outcome. "For us, there is no sense to choose any side," he said.

"These accusations are invented, if not to say false. These are senseless accusations which we do not understand," the ambassador added.

Kelin went on to say that, at present, relations between Moscow and London are "close to being frozen." The UK is "throwing a lot of mud ... in our direction," he added, and this type of attitude "does not provoke much of an appetite for improving dialogue or relations in Moscow."