Putin tells May to ‘fulfil will of people’ on Brexit

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Vladimir Putin has said the UK should not hold a second referendum on Brexit, insisting Theresa May must “fulfil the will of the people”.

Offering public support that the embattled British prime minister could probably do without, Putin said he understood May’s position in “fighting for this Brexit”.

“The referendum was held,” the Russian president said from Moscow during his annual press conference, which is broadcast on national television. “What can she do? She has to fulfil the will of the people expressed in the referendum.”

Britons may see some irony in a lesson on democracy from a fourth-term president who has co-opted or crushed any substantial opposition in his home country. In a statement, the former foreign secretary David Miliband, who has backed a second referendum, said it was “an insult to the United Kingdom that he should be lecturing us on our democratic process”.

Russia is seen as a possible beneficiary of the UK’s exit from the EU, and a prominent financial backer of the leave campaign, Arron Banks, met Russian embassy officials repeatedly during the run-up to the referendum in June 2016.

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