Russia’s ambassador to the UK has criticised British diplomatic efforts in the Ukraine crisis, claiming Boris Johnson’s government had offered nothing to resolve the dispute.
Andrei Kelin stepped up Moscow’s attacks on Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and suggested Mr Johnson was being eclipsed on the diplomatic front by counterparts from France and Germany.
His comments came after French President Emmanuel Macron brokered a potential summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in an attempt to avert a war in eastern Europe.
Mr Kelin suggested the UK had offered no constructive solutions, contrasting Mr Johnson’s efforts with Mr Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who are both perceived to have a softer position towards Russia than the UK or US.
Discussing the British efforts, he told the PA news agency: “Of course, we see all the diplomatic telephone calls, visits to each other, endless visits to each other, endless conversations.”
But he could see “no UK role in search of constructive solutions”.
While the French and Germans were seeking to find a solution, “as for the UK, I’m seeing nothing”.
He criticised Ms Truss following her occasionally testy visit to Moscow for talks with counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
“She didn’t listen to the arguments, she tried to be deaf to the arguments,” he said, accusing her of responding to Moscow’s position with “a small number of slogans”.
The visit of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was “much more diplomatic”, he said.
Ms Truss has defended her visit, insisting she delivered a “clear message” to the Kremlin and “of course, the Russians didn’t like what I had to say but I say it nevertheless”.
Mr Kelin suggested the UK was more interested in building up international alliances in favour of sanctions than finding a peaceful outcome.
“Britain, with its history of diplomacy, and that with its experience in diplomacy” should play a role beyond “wanting to create, to build up sanctions”.
He suggested it was a “huge overreaction to the unusual circumstances” and vowed that Moscow would retaliate if sanctions were imposed.
“We will, of course, find, ways to respond,” he said.
Hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough have been raised by the prospect of direct talks between US President Mr Biden and Russian President Mr Putin following the intervention by Mr Macron.
But Mr Kelin suggested any such summit could only take place if Russia’s fundamental concerns could be addressed.
“I do believe that it’s a bit early now to say what’s going to happen,” he said in an interview in Russia’s embassy in London.
It would be a “good result” if sufficient progress were made in talks to allow the summit to go ahead.
But he said the West is “not very interested in resolving the core question, the issue of the enlargement of Nato, the open door policy”.
Mr Kelin said: “Ukraine does not exist in a vacuum, it exists in Europe. It has its history and its neighbours.
“And, of course, any country which has neighbours should take into account (the) opinion of neighbours.”
Ukraine joining Nato would “ruin European security and it will ruin the relationship with Russia”.
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