Russia has announced it will block any new entry visas to staff working in the British government’s cultural offices.
The move is expected to further sour relations between Britain and Russia.
Russia summoned British ambassador Anthony Brenton to the foreign ministry after the British Council offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg opened in defiance of a Kremlin demand that they cease work from January 1.
“It was very clear. Deputy Minister Titov has handed me quite a long piece of paper setting out the Russian legal view of the work of the British Council and describing possible ways forward. I have not studied it in detail yet. What I said to him in reply was a re-statement of our clear view that the British Council is working entirely legally, that it will continue therefore to work. And that any Russian action against it would be a breach of international law.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin gave the Russian reaction.
“If the British continue to ignore Russian demands, we will exercise our rights and take specific steps against the head office of the British Council in Moscow,” he said.
London claims the move against the British Council is linked to the dispute over the murder of
Alexander Litvinenko. He died in London in 2006 from poisoning by radioactive polonium.
Britain named former Russian secret service operative Andrei Lugovoy as the main suspect and in July expelled four Russian diplomats over Moscow’s refusal to extradite him.