As a result of reopening the two offices, Britain has been accused by Russia of “international provocation.” The government had said that it will refuse new visas to the staff of the British Council.
However, Britain’s ambassador to Russia said that the offices will remain open and has been summoned by the Russian foreign ministry. The offices of the British Council were ordered to shut down in a continuing dispute over the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London.
The offices in St. Petersburg and Yakaterinburg were the two that reopened. The ban imposed by Russia does not apply to the British Council’s office in Moscow.
The statement on the Russian foreign ministry website said: “Russia views such actions as an international provocation aimed at inflaming tensions in Russian-British relations.
“The Russian side will not issue visas to new employees sent to work in the [British] consular offices of St Petersburg and Yakaterinburg to carry out British Council work.”
British ambassador Sir Tony Brenton said to Vladimir Titov, the deputy foreign minister that a serious disagreement existed between both countries.
Brenton said that the British Council is working legally and that Russian action against it would breach international law. Brenton said to Titov: “It’s also the case that we have a huge number of other subjects where Russia and the UK need to work together and we need to be quite careful to prevent the situation infecting all other pieces of business.”
According to BBC Moscow, Russia has been angered by the British Council’s defiance. Russia has also accused the British Council of violating Russian tax rules.
Martin Davidson, the chief executive of the council said it will continue talking to the Russian government.
Davidson said to BBC: “We know ordinary Russian people believe it is of real value to them, as well of course to us here in the UK, to have that relationship with Russia.”
The opinion on the British Council was divided on the streets of St. Petersburg.