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U.K. PM To Meet Russian President At G20, First Time Since Novichok Scandal

Theresa May (left) and Vladimir Putin last met for formal talks on the sidelines of a G20 summit in China in 2016.
Theresa May (left) and Vladimir Putin last met for formal talks on the sidelines of a G20 summit in China in 2016.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in Japan this week for the first time since the two countries' relations soured over the poisoning of a former double agent and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury, southern England, last year.

May's spokesman said the June 28 meeting at the G20 summit did not represent a normalization of relations.

"We remain open to a different relationship but that can only happen if Russia desists from activity that undermines international treaties and our collective security," the spokesman told reporters on June 26.

In Moscow, Putin's top foreign-policy adviser, Yury Ushakov, said Russia would welcome a breakthrough in relations with Britain.

Earlier this month, Putin said it was time to "turn the page" on the two countries' difficult relationship.

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury on March 4, 2018, and it was later discovered they had been exposed to Novichok, a Soviet-made military nerve agent. They both recovered.

But two other British citizens were exposed to the nerve agent in June 2018, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.

The other, Charlie Rowley, still suffers from health problems linked to the poisoning.

Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the scandal.

Russia in response expelled the same number of British diplomats and ordered the closure of the British Consulate-General in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, and the British Council's offices operating in the country.

The United States and European Union also expelled Russian diplomats and added to their existing sanctions on Moscow.

There has since been some easing of the diplomatic restrictions.

In September 2018, British authorities said they had enough evidence to charge two Russians -- known by presumed aliases Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov -- with various crimes including conspiracy to commit murder.

Scotland Yard accused them of being Russian military intelligence officers sent to Britain to assassinate Skripal.

May and Putin last met for formal talks on the sidelines of a G20 summit in China in 2016.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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