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Rebuilding ties

June 26, 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and British Prime Minister David Cameron have agreed to work on their countries' bilateral relations after years of diplomatic strain, the Kremlin announced on Saturday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, holds talks with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev during the G-8 summit
This was the first meeting between the two leadersImage: AP

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and new British Prime Minister David Cameron have agreed to work on defrosting relations between Britain and Russia that have been icy for years, the Kremlin announced on Saturday.

"I think there is a real opportunity to put the bilateral relations on to a new footing," Cameron said at the Group of Eight summit in Huntsville, Canada.

The two leaders met for an hour of bilateral talks on Friday on the sidelines of the summit of the world's leading economies. They agreed to maintain regular contact and to encourage their foreign ministers to work more closely together.

Medvedev agreed there was a new opportunity to set things right.

"We agreed that our bilateral relationship required the personal attention of the leaders of the two countries both in terms of the economy and other issues and we are determined to make them more productive and intense," he said.

Relationship free-fall

British-Russian relations hit a post-Soviet low in 2006 after the fatal poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London with a radioactive isotope. British authorities sought to have Russian parliament member Andrei Lugovol extradited in connection with Litvinenko's death, but Moscow refused.

Alexander Litvinenko before his 2006 death
Litvinenko's death worsened relations between Russia and BritainImage: AP

Britain granted political asylum to some of the Kremlin's enemies and refused to extradite Boris Berezovsky, a Russian billionaire and critic of the Russian government. Berezovsky was convicted in absentia of fraud and embezzlement in Russia.

The dispute over his extradition led Britain to expel Russian diplomats, moving Russia to follow suit and to shut down two branches of the British Council, a cultural and educational organization connected to the British foreign ministry.

The defrosting of UK-Russia follows a warm-up between Washington and Moscow, which agreed last year to a "reset" of their relationship. Last Thursday, US Presidents Barack Obama and Medvedev met in Washington, where they dodged superpower protocol to slip out to one of the US leader's favorite burger joints.

Author: Holly Fox (dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Kyle James