Russia hopes for reset in British ties: officials

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Russia hopes that Britain's new government led by David Cameron will warm ties with Moscow, officials said Thursday, after years of frosty relations sometimes reminiscent of the Cold War.

While Britain remains a key trade partner of Russia, relations nosedived under the Labour government amid judicial, espionage and even sex scandals that occasionally read like a spy novel.

"We want relations to develop and strengthen in the long term and hope that a new page will be opened in our bilateral contacts with Britain," foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters.

A foreign ministry source quoted by the Interfax news agency went even further about the prospects for relations under Britain's new Conservative-led coalition government.

"We anticipate that the coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will give a new impulse to our bilateral relations, including the resolution of problems that have built up in recent years," the source said.

Russia's relations with Britain have been chilly since Russia refused to extradite the main suspect in the London murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, Russian lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi.

In a recent embarrassing diplomatic scandal, a Russian web site in July published what it said was a video of a British diplomat consorting with prostitutes. The diplomat resigned shortly afterwards.

Russia is also angry over Britain's refusal to hand over Russian citizens convicted by its courts who have taken refuge in London, such as businessman Boris Berezovsky.

"We always work actively with our British partners. We did not invent the questions that have remained in our relations," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said while on a visit to Ankara.

Former British foreign secretary David Miliband visited Moscow in November last year in the first visit by a chief British diplomat for five years but failed to heal the rift over the Litvinenko murder.

British media reports said last week that Moscow had snubbed a British offer for heir to the throne Prince Charles to attend the weekend's military parade in Moscow marking the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II.

But the two sides will now be looking for a repeat of the self-proclaimed "reset" that occurred in US-Russian relations after the new administration of US President Barack Obama came to power.

© 2010 AFP

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