09/06/2013 03:44 EDT | Updated 11/06/2013 05:12 EST

David Cameron says abolition, boy band prove U.K.'s great

Reacting to a reported insult from a Russian official, British Prime Minister David Cameron launched into a spirited defence of his country on Friday, rhyming off a list of British accomplishments that included philosophy, the industrial revolution, the abolition of slavery and boy band One Direction.

"Yes we are a small island, in fact a group of small islands, but I would challenge anyone to come up with a country with a prouder history, with a bigger heart or with greater resilience," Cameron told reporters at the two-day G20 summit in St. Petersburg.

Cameron made the impassioned remarks at a morning news conference and then repeated much of what he said in a subsequent gathering of reporters.

It was in response to a Russian official who reportedly told a group of journalists earlier this week that Britain was "just a small island that no one pays any attention to."

"This is a country that cleared the European continent of fascism, that took slavery off the high seas. We're a country that's invented many of the things that are most worthwhile — everything from the Industrial Revolution to the television to the World Wide Web," Cameron said.

"Our music delights and amuses million. The Beatles, Elgar and — slightly less congruously — One Direction have conquered the world."

He added that Britain also invented most of the sports the world most likes playing.

"If I go on too long about our literature, our art, our philosophy, our contribution, including of course the world's language — if I start talking about this blessed plot, this sceptered isle, this England, I might have to put it to music, so I think I'll leave it there," he said, quoting from Shakespeare's Richard II.

Cameron did say that Russia has denied making the comments.