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London-Moscow relationship 'nearly dead,' Russian Ambassador tells LBC
21 March 2021, 06:49 | Updated: 21 March 2021, 11:41
The Russian ambassador to Britain has accused the Government of violating its international treaty obligations by raising the cap on its stockpile of nuclear warheads, saying ties between London and Moscow are "nearly dead."
Russian ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin made the comment to LBC host Tom Swarbrick as he called for Russia and the UK to work towards a post-Brexit "economic relationship"
The remarks come after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab earlier this week described Russia as a "threat" that uses "nefarious weapons", misinformation and cyber attacks.
Mr Kelin said the announcement in the Integrated Review of foreign and defence policy that it was raising the limit from 180 warheads to 260 had come as a "big surprise".
He also said the review had offered no justification for its description of Russia as an "acute threat" and that the political relationship between London and Moscow was now "nearly dead," but went on to suggest a renewed economic partnership.
He expressed bafflement at the decision to lift the cap on the nuclear stockpile, saying it violated the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty - a claim which the Government has denied.
"If UK is going to continue to raise a number of nuclear warheads, and this was a big surprise for the whole world, I will say even for the American experts. So they think 'UK, what are you doing?'" he said.
"You are increasing a number of warheads by 40%. This is a violation of the treaty of non-proliferation and many, many other agreements that are saying only a decline or a reduction in the number of nukes."
Speaking of Russia-UK relations, Mr Kelin told LBC: "I think that what we need to do is, or what we need to do immediately, is to relaunch economic relationship.
"Of course, it will be a vital and important for United Kingdom after Brexit especially when it is in search, when the UK is in search of other partners and other trade deals.
"We have a lot to offer to the UK if they will be interested in doing it."
Mr Kelin said the claims Russia represented a threat to the UK "boil down" to the poisoning in Salisbury of the former spy Sergei Skripal which, he said, lacked "substance or information" and was "all false".
"In the review, there are 14 times Russia (is) mentioned as an acute threat to the United Kingdom. But there is no single proof or explanation to any kind of a formulation," he said.
Mr Kelin also described Putin as a "very wise statesman" after US President Joe Biden made the accusation of the Russian President during an interview.
Asked directly whether he thought Putin was a "killer," Mr Kelin said: "Me? Of course not. He is very wise statesman, President Putin is very wise statesman.
"He has brought together Russia after terrible things that has happened in the 90s. Since the year 2000. It has become a different nation and a different country.
"And it is becoming stronger and stronger. It is becoming more influential, more sovereign entity, has its own interest, and it's going to defend our own interests."
Mr Putin has responded to the US President calling him a "killer" by stating on Russian TV that "It takes one to know one".
In the interview, the Russian ambassador to the UK was also asked for his view on Boris Johnson.
He replied: "I don't have any opinion [or] attitude, because Boris Johnson, for the moment is very much busy with the internal politics in the first place.
"And second, he is very busy in establishing a relationship in a post-Brexit situation with his main partners and his main partner, so this is clear, this is [the] European Union and the United States."
During the LBC interview, Mr Kelin also revealed to Tom Swarbrick that the last time he spoke to Dominic Raab was in December 2019, adding that he has been told Mr Raab "is very rarely meeting ambassadors".