Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Vladimir Putin agrees to Moscow meeting with David Cameron

Russian PM has shied away from talking to British politicians since a disastrous 2007 encounter with Tony Blair

David Cameron is hoping to lift UK relations with Vladimir Putin from the deep freeze by holding talks with the mercurial Russian prime minister next week, the first contact between Britain and Putin since Tony Blair had a disastrous bilateral meeting with him on the margins of a G8 summit in 2007.

The only other UK conversation with Putin in the past four years was a brief phone call by the Russian to Gordon Brown to congratulate him for succeeding Blair.

Extraordinarily, no junior British minister has met or spoken to Putin. All contacts have been conducted through the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, who has met Cameron several times.

Putin is almost certain to be re-elected as Russian president in elections next March, so Britain badly needs to re-establish relations and the unpredictable Putin may see the need to restore his reputation in the west.

The Kremlin confirmed on Thursday Putin would meet Cameron during his one-day visit to Moscow on Monday.

Blair, following his final meeting with Putin, admitted the west was “worried and fearful” about Putin’s Russia, describing the talks as frank – code for a disaster.

British officials are playing down suggestions of re-setting Anglo-Russian relations still soured by the London murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

A fierce critic of Putin, Litvinenko, a British citizen, was poisoned with a radioactive isotope. Britain has asked for the extradition of the chief suspect, Andrei Lugovoi, a politician and former KGB officer, so a trial can take place in the UK, but requests have been rejected.

The officials said Cameron was travelling “with his eyes open” and would raise the issue, as well as expressing concern at the imprisonment of Mikhail Khordorkovsky, deemed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

The treatment of Khordorkovsky, the former chief executive of oil firm Yukos, is seen as a prime example by Britain of the risks facing British businesses wishing to sign contracts in a country where there are concerns that the rule of law is at the whim of political leaders. A raid by special forces on BP offices in Moscow on 31 August is also seen symptomatic of the barriers to greater UK investment.

BP chief executive Bob Dudley and retailer Sir Philip Green are among businessmen accompanying Cameron.

The prime minister believes Britain has skills in financial services and energy extraction that Moscow needs, especially as Russia tries to diversify its economy. The aim is to show re-engagement will happen on UK terms. There are nearly 600 UK companies operating in Russia and Cameron is likely to argue that inward investment can only improve if Russia makes business more secure.

Cameron is also expected to urge Russia to show a greater willingness at the UN to toughen sanctions against Syria, following its co-operation at the UN over Libya. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds