FOREIGN Secretary Boris Johnson clashed publicly with his Russian counterpart over Crimea and Moscow’s alleged cyber attacks on the West, as the two met in Moscow.

Sergey Lavrov denied claims that the Kremlin had interfered in elections online and accused Johnson of being a “hostage” to untrue Western narratives on the issue.

And he said UK Government criticism of politicians who speak to Russian media outlets such as the RT TV channel – widely regarded as a Russian state mouthpiece – did not reflect well on the UK.

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In frank exchanges, Johnson said there was “abundant evidence” of Russian interference in polls in the US, Germany, Denmark and France.

When the Russian Foreign Minister told a press conference that Johnson himself had confirmed Russia did not interfere in the UK’s election and Brexit referendum, Johnson interrupted: “Not successfully.”

The clash came after Johnson warned the Kremlin that Britain was “prepared and able” to respond in kind to cyber attacks.

After an hour of talks on the first visit to Russia by a British foreign secretary for five years, both acknowledged relations between the countries were at their worst for some time.

The two said they had a level of personal trust, with Johnson joking that he handed his coat with “everything in my pockets, secret or otherwise” to Lavrov when he arrived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But when Johnson rejected Lavrov’s denial that Russia had tried to interfere in British polls, the Russian retorted: “He is afraid if he doesn’t contradict me his reputation is going to be ruined.”

Lavrov added: “We are concerned that the cradle of democracy, the United Kingdom, sees the vilifying of people for speaking to Russian media.”

Earlier, Johnson was rebuked by his host for speaking in public about their differences. Before the talks, Johnson sent a blunt message to the Kremlin to stop its use of cyberspace to disrupt Western countries, saying:”The UK is certainly prepared and able to respond, should we so desire.”

In a move likely to further aggravate his hosts, Johnson later laid a bunch of roses at the spot where opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was assassinated in 2015.