Johnson Putin

(L) Boris Johnson REUTERS / Toby Melville; (R) Vladimir Putin Sputnik / Maksim Blinov / Kremlin via REUTERS
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that his country wants to see relations with Russia improve despite recent tensions over alleged poisonings on British soil, as part of diplomatic outreach to bolster environmental efforts.

On Monday, in his first two-way call with his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin in a year and a half, Johnson said that two nations have a responsibility to work together. A statement from Downing Street released after the conversation said that the British prime minister "was clear that the UK's current relationship with Russia is not the one we want."

However, at the same time, "significant bilateral difficulties remain, including the poisonings in Salisbury in 2018," Downing Street said. "The Prime Minister also underscored the importance of Ukrainian sovereignty."


Comment: Bojo claims to want better relations but brings up an unproven allegation of attempted murder?


In its own readout of the discussion, the Kremlin said that the pair "expressed a mutual opinion that, despite the existence of known issues, it would be necessary to establish cooperation between Moscow and London in a number of areas."

Among the topics reportedly discussed was the situation in Afghanistan, with Putin sharing insights from meetings held with the Taliban last week. Despite the Islamist militant group being listed as a terrorist organization and banned in the country, Russia has played host to its delegates several times in recent months, positioning itself as a peace-broker in the region after the withdrawal of American forces from Kabul.

On top of that, the pair discussed the issue of climate change, and Putin sent his apologies for being unable to attend the upcoming COP26 summit in person. According to Downing Street, the Russian president will be unable to attend the UN conference, to be held in Glasgow from October 31, due to the Covid-19 situation in Russia, which has seen record numbers of deaths and infections in recent days.

Johnson reportedly "welcomed the steps Russia has taken in recent days to commit net zero by 2060." However, at the same time, "the Prime Minister expressed his hope that Russia will raise that target to achieving net zero by 2050 as well as making further progress on ending deforestation."

British officials went on to quote Johnson as saying that "as fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council and major world economies with a long, shared history, the UK and Russia have a responsibility to work together to tackle shared challenges like climate change and safeguard international agreements like the Iran Nuclear Deal."

Tensions have flared between London and Moscow in recent months. In September, British police charged in absentia a third purported Russian national they believe was implicated in the alleged 2018 poisoning of former double agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The incident, which took place in the cathedral city of Salisbury in 2018, was claimed by UK investigators to have been a Russian military intelligence operation. Moscow has consistently denied involvement and said the claims are both unproven and politically motivated.