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article imageJohnson to make first visit to Russia by UK minister in five years

By AFP     Dec 20, 2017 in Politics

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson heads to Moscow this week on the first official visit by a minister from London in five years.

Johnson will hold talks on Friday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign ministry said, eight months after a previous visit was cancelled over Moscow's support for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The visit could signal a potential shift in relations after years of antagonism.

Johnson's decision to scrap his April trip followed a suspected chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that killed more than 80 people and has been widely blamed on Syrian government forces.

Russia blasted London over the cancelled Johnson visit in April, saying the decision was "absurd" and charging that Britain has "no real influence" on the global stage.

Relations with Russia soured after Britain sought to prosecute suspects in the killing of Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko, murdered by radiation poisoning in London in 2006.

Britain has also been a fervent supporter of Western sanctions against Moscow over its role in the Ukraine conflict.

At a summit in Brussels in November, Prime Minister Theresa May warned that Europe needed to be on guard against the "actions of hostile states like Russia".

Concerns are running high in Europe over the Kremlin's use of cyber-tactics and misinformation to cause political destabilisation around the continent and to draw former Soviet states into its embrace.

According to a British university study published on Monday, Russian-linked fake social media accounts have systematically attempted to amplify social division in Britain around the terror attacks of the past year.

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