Boris Johnson may visit Moscow in three weeks’ time, which would be the first such occasion for a UK Foreign Secretary in 5 years. Johnson’s previous plan to come to Russia in March was ultimately cancelled amid a crisis in Syria.
Johnson may come to the Russian capital and hold meetings with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov on December 22, Reuters reports citing sources. Alan Duncan, a junior foreign minister, will arrive in Russia next week to lay the ground for the Johnson’s visit, when he and Lavrov will discuss international security issues, the report said.
Earlier, Russian diplomatic officials confirmed that preparations for a Johnson visit were underway, but would not provide any detail. The previous visit by Britain’s top diplomat to Russia was in 2012, when the position was held by William Hague.
Johnson had intended to come to Moscow earlier this year, but his scheduled visit was first postponed by London and later cancelled altogether. The cancelation was reportedly due to a US missile strike at a Syrian military base, which was ordered by US President Donald Trump after reports of a chemical weapon attack in the country. The Russian Embassy in London mocked the decision, implying that Johnson would not personally face questions from his Russian counterpart over the controversial attack on Syria and preferred to have US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson do the talking instead.
Relations between Russia and Britain have been strained for over a decade. The two nations have fallen out over issues like the 2006 poisoning of former Russian security officer Aleksandr Litvinenko in London, the mutual expulsion of diplomats, the 2014 political crisis in Ukraine and the Syrian war.
The expected visit would come at a low point in already sour diplomatic environment. British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose position as the head of the government is undermined by her cabinet’s poor handling of Brexit negotiations with the EU and other domestic problems, apparently decided last month to play the Russia threat card to rally Britons’ support. However, both May and her cabinet members were forced to admit that they had no evidence of Russian interference in either the Brexit vote or the snap general election in June that proved disastrous for the Tories.