Sunday 16 December 2018

'Sort out poisoning probe, then we will talk' - Putin

Russian President Vladimir. Photo: AP
Russian President Vladimir. Photo: AP

Jack Maidment in London

Vladimir Putin has said the UK must finish its investigation on the alleged poisoning of a former double agent in Salisbury before holding formal talks with Russia.

"Sort things out from your side and then we will discuss this with you," the president was reported as saying by Russian news agency Interfax.

Yesterday, a senior MP warned England fans could be targeted by Russia during the 2018 World Cup if the UK government takes tough action against the Kremlin.

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said there is a "danger of Russia responding to British fans" if Theresa May retaliates against Moscow.

Meanwhile, Peter Ricketts, the former UK national security adviser, said plans for British officials and dignitaries to potentially boycott the tournament which starts in June would be ineffective. However, he said a co-ordinated decision to stay away by a number of nations would send a "very powerful message".

Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, suggested in the immediate aftermath of the Salisbury incident that England's participation in the World Cup could be in doubt if Russia is linked to the poisonings.

Mr Johnson said that it would be "very difficult" for UK representation at the tournament to go ahead as normal. It would simplify the process of expelling foreign citizens who do not have a criminal record who are considered a risk to national security.

Mr Tugendhat said any UK response needed to focus on "making sure we make (Vladimir) Putin realise what we are doing and make people who support him realise that supporting him isn't a great idea".

But he suggested that any response could have repercussions for England fans.

He told BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme: "I am not a big believer in using sport as a political weapon but I have to say we do need to be very, very careful for British fans who are travelling there that they are not in any way caught up in the politics of this.

"And, I'm afraid the danger of Russia responding to British fans for actions taken by their government is all too real."

It came as a Russian state news anchor suggested the UK may have been behind the poisoning. Dmitry Kiselyov said the incident "creates a lot of possibilities, like an international boycott of the World Cup". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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