Russia has renewed its campaign of harassment against the British Council by demanding that the cultural organisation move out of one of its offices in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Three years ago police raided the British Council’s Moscow headquarters. Russian officials accused it of not paying tax but the raid was part of a broader attempt by the Kremlin to intimidate non-governmental organisations, whom Vladimir Putin has accused of spying and meddling in Russia’s internal affairs. Tension between Moscow and London has been exacerbated by the Kremlin’s refusal to hand over Andrei Lugovoi – charged with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko – and by Tony Blair’s recent remarks that western investors could be put off doing business in Russia. In March Russian officials demanded the latest tax records of the British Council in Moscow and 11 other Russian cities. The foreign ministry now says the organisation has to move out of its Yekaterinburg office because it is not a “cultural department of the British embassy”. British Council staff are exasperated by the decision and say they have been trying to resolve the council’s tax and legal status for the past three years. James Kennedy, the director of the British Council in Russia, told the Guardian yesterday: “We have been working very hard for three years. We hope a new cultural agreement will soon be signed to continue all the work we are doing with our Russian partners. It’s disappointing we can’t sort these things out.” Yesterday Russian officials said the British Council office in Yekaterinburg currently enjoyed diplomatic immunity, to which it was not entitled.
LR: Britain could do the same thing to the Russian counterpart in Britain, except for the small problem that there isn’t one, just like there’s noRussian counterpart to McDonalds in the USA. Russia has woefully failed to make its culture palatable to outsiders, and hence only made its image problem that much worse.