Boris Johnson and Sergei Lavrov clash during Moscow news conference

The Russian foreign minister accused his British counterpart of being 'hostage' to allegations of Russian interference

Boris Johnson and Sergei Lavrov clash during Moscow news conference

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (left) holds up a publication featuring the emblem of Russia's FSB security agency during a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov following their meeting in Moscow. Picture by: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson has clashed with Russia's foreign minister over alleged cyberattacks on the West and activity in Ukraine.

Sergei Lavrov denied claims that Moscow had used the internet to interfere in democratic elections and accused Mr Johnson of being a "hostage" of untrue Western narratives on the issue.

Mr Johnson insisted there was "abundant evidence" that Russia had attempted to influence polls in the US, Germany, Denmark and France.

He also told Mr Lavrov that Russia had been unable to successfully meddle in the Brexit referendum.

Theresa May had earlier promised that Mr Johnson would take a "hard headed" approach to dealing with Russia when he travelled to Moscow for the first visit by a Foreign Secretary for five years.

After the talks, Mr Lavrov said London made a series of aggressive and insulting statements.

Mr Johnson was in Moscow in an attempt to open up communication channels after years of hostility.

He told Mr Lavrov before the talks got under way: "Things are difficult but we want to work together with you on some issues, Sergei, and we want to work to achieve a better future.

"We have a duty to work together for peace and security," he added.

"Where we can I think we can find positive cooperation on issues we have substantial interests in common," he said, referring to Iran, North Korea and Syria.

"And when I look at the difficulties in our relationship, whether it's over Ukraine or over the Western Balkans, or what's going on in cyberspace, I agree with you that it's important to talk about these things and to be frank about them and to accept that they are obstructions in our relationship at the moment."


After the talks finished, the pair appeared to exchange barbs in a news conference on several issues and, at times, it grew tense.

Mr Lavrov said the pair had discussed Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and North Korea and had agreed to discuss the impact of Brexit on UK-Russia ties.

He said they had also discussed Ukraine, but failed to say if anything had been agreed, other than that the two countries needed to work together in the UN Security Council.

He said the both countries' ability to tackle terrorism was constrained by the UK's refusal to fully cooperate with the Russian security service the FSB.

Mr Johnson said the UK could not ignore events in Ukraine and Russian cyber activities and the problems faced by gay people in Chechnya and it was a sad truth that UK-Russia relations were going through a "very difficult patch".

Mr Lavrov added, after mentioning the series of insulting statements, said he trusted Mr Johnson and was happy to call him by his first name.

"We are ready to develop dialogue on a very wide range of issues on the basis of principles of equality (and) taking into account and respecting each other's interests," Mr Lavrov said.

"We have to find a way forward," added Mr Johnson.