Kremlin says ties with UK could get even worse under next PM

LONDON (Reuters): Russia said on Monday it could not rule out the possibility that dire relations with Britain would get even worse under the country’s next prime minister.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who has for months been the target of withering scorn from Moscow, is expected to beat rival Rishi Sunak and become Britain’s new leader, succeeding Boris Johnson, when the result of a ballot of Conservative party members is announced at 1130 GMT.

“I wouldn’t like to say that things can change for the worse, because it’s hard to imagine anything worse,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked if Moscow expected any shift in relations with Britain.

“But unfortunately, this cannot be ruled out, given that the contenders for the post of British prime minister competed with each other in anti-Russian rhetoric, in threats to take further steps against our country, and so on. Therefore, I don’t think that we can hope for anything positive.”

Asked if President Vladimir Putin would send a congratulatory telegram, he said: “Let’s wait and see who becomes prime minister.”

Truss is chiefly known in Russia for a visit she made to Moscow in February, when she and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a rancorous meeting. Lavrov described their conversation as like a dialogue between deaf and mute people, complaining that facts had “bounced off” her.

Russia’s foreign ministry has also openly mocked her over geographical gaffes, including on one occasion when she mixed up the Black and Baltic seas.

Truss openly challenged Lavrov at their meeting over Russia’s troop build-up near Ukraine, saying: “I can’t see any reason for having 100,000 troops stationed on the border, apart from to threaten Ukraine.” Moscow, which had denied invasion plans, sent its troops in two weeks later.

Since then, Britain has been one of the most active and vocal supporters of Ukraine in the war, supplying it with weapons and training.

Russia and Britain have had tense relations for years, hitting low points with the fatal 2006 poisoning of former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko in London and the attempted killing of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury in 2018.