Russia says France's trade agency in Moscow had no legal basis

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian foreign ministry, citing a court ruling, said on Tuesday that Business France trade agency in Moscow, which Paris has now decided to shut down, had been functioning without any "legal basis".

France said on Monday it had decided to shut its Business France trade agency in Russia after what it said was a long period of negotiations with local authorities following Moscow's expulsion of its director.

The Russian foreign ministry said a Moscow court had ruled in favour of two former Russian employees at the agency in a labour dispute in 2016-2017.

"The court has refused to recognise Business France's diplomatic immunity," it said in a statement.

This showed that "Business France worked in Russia without legal basis, in essence", it said.

In a statement on Monday, the French embassy in Moscow said Business France's working conditions had deteriorated considerably in the last few months and the agency had been hit by "illegal seizures on its bank accounts, despite being protected by the Vienna convention (on diplomatic relations)."

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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