Things aren't easy between us: Boris Johnson spars with Russian counterpart
Moscow: Boris Johnson and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, have sparred over the issue of alleged Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum during the first visit by a British foreign secretary to Moscow for five years.
Lavrov made the latest in a series of blanket Russian denials over interference in western votes, and said Johnson himself had said there was "no evidence of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum".
"We haven't seen any evidence except that for four kopecks someone put an advert on social media," Lavrov said.
Johnson then corrected the Russian minister, saying: "'Not successfully' is what I said."
"He's scared that if he doesn't disagree with me, his reputation will be ruined at home," Lavrov said.
"Sergei, it's your reputation I'm worried about," Johnson retorted. The exchange, only half-joking, was symptomatic of the deep discord in the relationship. In public comments before the talks, Lavrov chided Johnson for his public criticism of Russia and said the miserable state of bilateral relations was London's fault. "It's no secret that our relations are at a low point and that's not at our initiative," Lavrov said. "We've noticed you and other western countries have your reasons for this and you prefer to speak about them publicly. We would prefer to discuss these issues directly, not in public through microphones." Johnson conceded that "things are not easy between us at the moment", noting that Britain had issues with Russia's actions in Ukraine, the western Balkans and cyberspace. Johnson also said, however, that "we must not allow ourselves to be defined by these problems" and that there were a number of issues of global importance, notably Syria and North Korea, on which the countries should try to work together.