Leaders of Britain and Russia seek to work on a number of fronts after recent political events cause rift between nations

Theresa May has held her first phone calls with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the two leaders could meet face-to-face in China next month, Downing Street has confirmed.

Relations with Russia have been fraught in recent years, with the UK instrumental in pushing for economic sanctions against the Putin regime over its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

A statement from the Kremlin hinted at the possibility of setting up a thaw, however. While discussing topical issues in Russian-British relations, both sides expressed displeasure with the current state of cooperation in the political, trade and economic spheres, it said.

The leaders agreed to intensify joint is currently working on a number of fronts, including air transport safety, the Kremlin added.

The statement also noted that May had confirmed the UK will take part in commemorations in Arkhangelsk this month marking the 75 th anniversary of the arrival of the first Arctic convoys from the UK to the Soviet Union in the second world war.

May is keen to demonstrate that the UK remains outward-looking and will continue to play a full role in global diplomacy, despite the publics vote to leave the European Union.

In the run-up to the referendum, remain campaigners, including Mays predecessor, David Cameron, indicated Putin would be pleased by a vote for Brexit because it would destabilise the EU.

After the result was declared in June, Putin ridiculed that notion, condemning Camerons asserts as a flawed attempt to influence the public opinion in his own country that did not have the desired result.

Both May and Putin are due to attend the G20 summit in China early next month, and Downing Street signalled that the UK would be open to the possibility of a private session between them on the sidelines of the meeting.

Russia was one of the few countries to give an upbeat response to Mays unexpected decision to appoint Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.

Moscows foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zhakarova, said: The book of Russo-British relations has long been awaiting someone to turn over to a better page in the history of bilateral issues. If Britains Foreign Office, under its new leader, has a coinciding passion, we will support it.

The Russian nation news outlet Tass described Johnson, whose appointment provoked created eyebrows in some capitals, as a charismatic human, with a reputation for wit, capable of destroying his foe with a single word.

As home secretary, May declined to pursue punitive measures against Moscow earlier this year over the poisoning of former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London a decade ago, despite a public investigation suggesting the Russian country had ordered the killed.

In January, May told the House of Commons the instance amounted to a blatant and unacceptable violation of international law, and said she had asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants for the two suspects. But she stressed the importance of maintaining engagement with Russia over issues including the Syrian conflict.

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