Miliband in key visit to Russia

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The Independent Online

Foreign Secretary David Miliband is making his first official visit to Russia today.

His two-day visit to Moscow - which will see him meet his Russian counterpart and a host of other officials - is also the first by a British foreign secretary to the country for five years.

Relations between the UK and Russia have been fractious in recent years due to a series of diplomatic crises, including the 2006 radiation poisoning of a Russian dissident in London and Russia's recent conflict with neighbouring Georgia.

Writing on his blog, Mr Miliband said: "We don't always see eye to eye with Russia, but we share the same global challenges and it is important that we work on them together.

"The wealth of people-to-people contacts and the dynamic business links which have grown between Britain and Russia over the last 20 years make political engagement all the more important."

Mr Miliband's visit actually coincides with the third anniversary of the polonium-210 poisoning of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko.

The former spy was poisoned on November 2, 2006, dying three weeks later after a major health scare in the capital.

After a lengthy investigation, British police tried unsuccessfully to extradite the chief suspect from Russia, former KGB operative Andrei Lugovoy.

His widow Marina criticised Mr Miliband's trip when it was announced last month, saying the timing was "adding insult to injury".