British PM says will visit Russia next year

The visit will be 1st by David Cameron to Russia since taking power in May.

Updated: Nov 11, 2010, 16:32 PM IST

Seoul: Britain`s Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday he would make his first official visit to Russia in 2011 after years of frosty relations between the two nations.

Cameron has accepted an invitation from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who hailed recent closer cooperation between the two countries after they met before the G20 summit in Seoul.

"I`m very pleased to take up the invitation of a visit to Russia next year," Cameron said after the meeting ahead of the summit of Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies in Seoul.

"We have both agreed we want to strengthen the bilateral relationship."

Medvedev said the two countries had "recently managed to advance on a number of issues, cooperating very closely".

"We agreed that it is necessary to continue a shift towards expanding contacts at the highest level," he said.

The visit will be the first by Cameron, a centre-right Conservative, to Russia since taking power in May and will come against a backdrop of difficult relations between the two countries.

Ties have been badly strained by issues including the murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died after his tea was allegedly laced with radioactive polonium in a London hotel in 2006.

Britain wants Russia to extradite the chief suspect, lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi, but Moscow has refused.

Russia has also issued an international arrest warrant for Chechen independence leader Akhmed Zakayev, who lives in London after receiving political asylum in 2003.

It also wants the extradition of oligarch Boris Berezovsky, another London resident who received asylum and is a fierce critic of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague admitted there were "serious differences" between the countries on his first visit in the job to Russia last month.

"We acknowledge that differences remain," Hague said at the time. "We are not here today to announce any change in that position," referring to Britain`s stance on the Litvinenko murder.

PTI