The Kremlin accused the Foreign Secretary of “making up absurd excuses” after he released a statement announcing he would step back from diplomatic discussions, leaving US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to deliver “a clear and coordinated message” to Vladimir Putin.
Mr Johnson had been due to fly to Moscow on Saturday to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to express British anger over Mr Putin’s military support for Bashar al-Assad.
But after a phone conversation with Mr Tillerson on Friday evening, the Foreign Secretary said “developments” had “changed the situation fundamentally”.
Instead of travelling to Moscow, Mr Johnson said he would concentrate on building “coordinated international support for a ceasefire” at a G7 meeting in Italy on Tuesday.
But critics said he had “allowed his diary to be managed from across the pond”.
Russia accused the Foreign Secretary of living in an 'absurd reality' after the cancellation
Maria Zakharova said Mr Johnson had made "absurd excuses"
Moscow officials reportedly speculated Mr Johnson had actually been “ordered” to cancel his trip by Washington, in order to avoid upstaging Mr Tillerson.
Mr Putin’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Our Western colleagues live in their own reality where they first try to make collective plans, and then cancel them by making up absurd excuses.”
Russian MP Alexey Pushkov, an ally of the Russian president, claimed the move proved Britain was under the control of the US.
Tim Farron branded Mr Johnson a "poodle of Washington"
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He said: “This is how London will be able to save on other Johnson trips – Tillerson will speak for the two of them.”
In an astonishing attack on Mr Johnson, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron accused the Foreign Secretary of being the United States’ lapdog.
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He said: “Boris has revealed himself to be a poodle of Washington, having his diary managed from across the pond.
“It is pretty shameful when even Trump judges you to be a buffoon.”