The boss of one of Russia’s largest banks has apologised for calling former foreign secretary Boris Johnson a “prat”.
Andrei Kostin, chief executive of VTB, made the comments at Moscow State Institute of International Relations University, with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also in attendance.
“Look at, excuse me, the prats in the West, say at Johnson and others,” he said, while praising Lavrov, according to Reuters.
Johnson served as foreign secretary during the Novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Soviet spy accused of being a double agent, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, in Salisbury in March, and VTB said this played into Kostin’s remarks.
“Boris Johnson’s tenure as a minister of foreign affairs fell during a period of significant deterioration of an already quite troubled Russo-British relations,” an English language statement read.
“Mr Kostin’s emotional comment ... was caused by a deep disappointment regarding the crisis in the relations between our countries. However, this cannot serve as grounds for rude public statements.”
It said Kostin “sincerely apologises” to the Brexiteer.
Johnson refused to back down over comments he made in April linking Russia to the Novichok used in the Salisbury poisoning, though the Porton Down laboratory said it couldn’t verify the precise source of the nerve agent.
Elsewhere in his address, Kostin said that in his personal experience of living in the UK, he had found that many Brits “are in fact nice and smart people”.
Kostin was among those targeted by US sanctions in April that were set out in response to Russian’s involvement in Syria, as well as alleged interference with the 2016 US election.
Washington issued fresh sanctions against Russia specifically for the Novichok attack just last month, stopping arms exports and limiting foreign assistance to humanitarian means.
The Salisbury poisoning caused a major diplomatic fallout between the UK and Russia, with the UK expelling around 150 Russian diplomats and Moscow retaliating in kind.