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Lavrov, Hague to discuss economy, visa issues in London

RIA Novosti

07:39 15/02/2011 LONDON, February 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on a visit to London, will hold talks with his British counterpart William Hague to discuss economic relations and visa issues, as well as preparation for Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to Moscow.

Russian-British relations have been strained over a host of issues, including the controversial death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 and Russia's pressure on the British Council in 2007-2008.

The issues also include Britain's criticism of Moscow after the Russian-Georgian military conflict in August 2008 and tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions. Besides, Russia has accused Britain of acting as a refuge for fugitive Russian businessmen, including Boris Berezovsky.

The countries currently cooperate on key international issues, but there has been no noticeable progress in the resolution of bilateral disputes.

Lavrov will officially open the Russian Business Week (RBW) at the London School of Economics on Tuesday. RBW is an annual conference addressing the most pressing issues facing Russia and the world in an academic environment.

Bilateral relations further grew sour when the Guardian's Moscow correspondent, Luke Harding, was refused reentry to Russia on February 5 after being absent from the country for two months. The Russian authorities reversed their decision following criticism in the global media. Harding returned to Moscow on Saturday.

Harding, who has fallen foul of the Russian authorities on a number of occasions, was responsible for reporting on U.S. diplomatic cables leaked to The Guardian by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, including corruption allegations against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The journalist wrote on his Twitter blog on February 7: "The Russians have been unhappy with my reporting for a while. But it seems WikiLeaks may have been the final straw."

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