Russia calls Boris Johnson ‘utterly confused’ and attacks ‘stupidity’ of Liz Truss before Putin talks

‘Mrs Truss, your knowledge of history is nothing compared to your knowledge of geography,’ says Moscow

Johnson urges Russia to ‘step back’ from Ukraine invasion during Kyiv address

Russia has said it will hold diplomatic talks with anyone - even the “utterly confused” - hours ahead of a planned call between Vladimir Putin and Boris Johnson.

The Kremlin turned its rhetorical fire on the UK prime minister, who cancelled a phone call with Putin on Monday to answer questions in the British parliament about the continuing ‘partygate’ scandal.

Mr Johnson then visited Kiev on Tuesday, where he accused Russia of holding a gun to Ukraine’s head.

It all drew an angry response from Moscow. The call is now expected to go ahead on Wednesday.

“As you know, we have already announced the phone call with prime minister Johnson more than once, and are not going to announce it any further,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

“It makes sense to speak to anybody. Russia and president Putin are open to communicating with everyone. Even to someone who is utterly confused, he is prepared to provide exhaustive explanations,” Mr Peskov added.

Russia’s foreign ministry went even further with the insults, mocking foreign secretary Liz Truss for saying Britain was sending supplies to its “Baltic allies across the Black Sea” - two bodies of water that are on opposite sides of Europe. The Foreign Office later said she had been talking about separate geographic areas of support.

“Mrs Truss, your knowledge of history is nothing compared to your knowledge of geography,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova wrote in a blog post. “If anyone needs saving from anything, it’s the world, from the stupidity and ignorance of British politicians.”

The Kremlin’s thinly-veiled insult comes amid continuing tensions over Ukraine, with the west warning that the presence of more than 100,000 Russian soldiers near its neighbour’s border could herald war.

The latest statements come a day after a senior Russian envoy described British diplomacy as “absolutely worthless”.

Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, also told Sky that Moscow did not “trust British diplomacy”.

The Russian press has joined in as well. The Gazprom Media-owned NTV channel suggested earlier this week that Mr Johnson was the “most disliked, disrespected and ridiculed character in Britain”. It added that he was “completely under the control and heel of his young wife”, and that “even schoolchildren are laughing at him”.

Elsewhere, the Kremlin-backed broadcaster Rossiya 1 claimed his “anti-Russian” stance on the situation in Ukraine was “a way to divert attention from domestic problems”.

Following weeks of mounting concern and increased diplomatic activity, the west and Russia appear no closer to de-escalating the situation in Europe. The US and its allies have refused to agree to the Kremlin’s demands, which include calls for Ukraine to be permanently banned from joining Nato.

Speaking publicly for the first time in six weeks about Ukraine, Mr Putin struck a defiant tone on Tuesday. "It’s already clear now… that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored," he said.

The long-serving leader claimed the west was being the aggressor, despite the build-up of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers near Ukraine.

Mr Putin claimed Washington was using Ukraine to contain and destabilise Russia. "This can be done in different ways, by drawing us into some kind of armed conflict and, with the help of their allies in Europe, forcing the introduction against us of those harsh sanctions they are talking about now in the US,” he said.

The west has threatened Russia with severe economic consequences as a means of dissuading it from invading its neighbour. Countries like the US and the UK have also sent Ukraine military aid as a pre-emptive measure.

Mr Johnson, who travelled to Kyiv this week to show his support for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, accused Russia of putting a gun to Ukraine’s head in an attempt to force through security changes in Europe.

The UK prime minister stressed that the “path of diplomacy” was in Russia’s best interests, saying an incursion would be “a political disaster, a humanitarian disaster and a military disaster”.

"There are 200,000 men and women under arms in Ukraine, they will put up a very, very fierce and bloody resistance," he warned.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who also visited Kyiv, said his country would supply Ukraine with gas and weapons. "Living close to a neighbour like Russia, we have the feeling of living at the foot of a volcano," he added.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president Mr Zelensky continues to claim Russia will not attack his country. Although he signed off a plan this week to increase his nation’s armed forces by 100,000 soldiers over the next three years, he suggested the move does not indicate that war is likely.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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