Putin believes the UK is weak because of Brexit, according to Lithuanian minister

  • Lithuania’s foreign minister said the poisoning of Sergei Skripal – which has been blamed on Russia – was a test of the UK’s strength and diplomatic links ahead of Brexit.
  • “The Russian assumption may be that in the process of Brexit, the UK is weaker in terms of its isolation,” said Linas Linkevičius.
  • Britain’s western allies have this week united behind the UK government.

LONDON – Russian president Vladimir Putin is testing Britain a time of isolation and weakness owing to Brexit, according to Lithuania’s foreign minister.

Speaking after a meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Linas Linkevičius said the poisoning of Sergei Skripal – which has been blamed on Russia – was a test of the UK’s strength and diplomatic links as it prepares to leave the European Union.

“Russia is always looking for weak points, and may feel the UK does not feel very strong,” he told the Guardian.

“The Russian assumption may be that in the process of Brexit, the UK is weaker in terms of its isolation, and due to Brexit the EU will not be very enthusiastic in backing the UK up.

“Fortunately that is not the case, and we will support the UK, but Russia acts by testing for reactions.”

Whatever Russia’s intentions, the poisoning of Skripal – a Russian national who worked as a double agent for MI6 – has underlined the strength of Britain’s alliances in both Europe and the United States.

On Thursday, the leaders of the United States, Britain, France, and Germany released a joint statement condemning Russia for the poisoning.

The leaders described the poisoning as “the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,” adding that Russia’s actions “threaten the security of us all.”

“Of course it will be painful”

Linkevičius also said the introduction of legislation similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, a sanction which Prime Minister Theresa May announced this week, would be damaging for the Russian elite.

The Act would allow the UK government to freeze the assets of wealthy individuals linked to the Kremlin who live in the UK and has been successful in America.

“You know how many oligarchs find safe haven in London – their money, the real estate, the children sent to secondary schools – and they cannot imagine their life without that,” he said.

“Can you imagine if people were put on a UK list who already have real estates and property here? Of course, it will be painful.”

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.