Russia hauls in ambassador over 'offensive' UK comments on nuclear weapons

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British Ambassador to Russia Deborah Bronnert takes part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin Wall in Moscow, Russia February 10, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday it had summoned the British ambassador to voice a strong protest against "offensive" British statements, including about alleged Russian threats to use nuclear weapons.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it issued the rebuke to Ambassador Deborah Bronnert over "the frankly boorish statements of the British leadership regarding Russia, its leader and official representatives of the authorities, as well as the Russian people".

It said Bronnert was handed a memorandum stating that "offensive rhetoric from representatives of the UK authorities is unacceptable. In polite society, it is customary to apologise for such statements."

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The ministry said Russia had told her it objected to British statements containing "deliberately false information, in particular about alleged Russian 'threats to use nuclear weapons'".

No immediate comment was available from Britain's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a radio interview this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin had "small man syndrome" and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was "like a comedy turn - she does her statement every week threatening to nuke everyone".

Russia's war in Ukraine has wrecked its relations with most Western countries but it often reserves special vitriol for Britain, which has positioned itself as a leading backer of Kyiv in both rhetorical support and weapons supplies.

In February, the Kremlin condemned what it called "absolutely unacceptable" remarks by British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss about the risk of conflict between Russia and NATO after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

On Thursday, Putin cited Margaret Thatcher's 1982 dispatch of the British navy to take back the Falkland Islands from Argentina in response to comments by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a "perfect example of toxic masculinity" and would not have happened if Putin were a woman.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later that some of Johnson's comments were "monstrous".

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Writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Deepa Babington

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Thomson Reuters

Chief writer on Russia and CIS. Worked as a journalist on 7 continents and reported from 40+ countries, with postings in London, Wellington, Brussels, Warsaw, Moscow and Berlin. Covered the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Security correspondent from 2003 to 2008. Speaks French, Russian and (rusty) German and Polish.