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Russia’s Putin urges next UK PM to forget spy row and improve ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with heads of international news agencies on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg on June 6, 2019. (AFP photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes Britain’s next prime minister would forget the poisoning of a former double spy in England last year in order to improve strained relations between London and Moscow.

Putin made the comments on Thursday while speaking to the media on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, urging whoever succeeded outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May to see what he described as the bigger picture and move on from the Sergei Skripal incident.

The call is the first to come since London accused Russia of ordering a poison attack on Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in southern England in March 2018.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the alleged attack which left the former Russian spy unconscious for weeks.

Authorities in Moscow believe the incident was orchestrated by British intelligence agencies to implicate Russia amid a row between Moscow and the West over a crisis in Ukraine.

Putin said the Skripals case benefitted London more than Moscow and called for a new chapter in bilateral ties.

“He’s your agent not ours. That means you spied against us and it’s hard for me to say what happened with him subsequently. We need to forget about all this in the final analysis,” Putin said.

“When all’s said and done we need to turn this page connected with spies and assassination attempts.”

The British government has released footage of two Russian men who were in Salisbury at the time of the attack on Skripals while identifying them as linked to the Russian military intelligence service.

It has said that the two traveled to Britain under aliases and carried out the attack using a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok.

Putin touched upon his experience as a former intelligence officer and said that the Skripals case should not hamper efforts to rebuild ties between Russia and Britain.

“I’m talking to you as an expert, believe me. We need to cast off this fluff and get down to business,” he said.

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