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Russia, UK ties dip as spat continues

The standoff over London’s refusal to close the British Council in Russia takes a sharp downturn as Russia detains the organisation's director, reports Fred Weir.

world Updated: Jan 16, 2008 23:41 IST
Fred Weir

The standoff over London’s refusal to close the British Council in Russia took a sharp downturn on Wednesday as Russia detained the organization's director and the FSB security service called in its regional staff for questioning.

Britain lodged a tough diplomatic protest and called in Russian ambassador Yuri Fedotov to answer questions at the Foreign Office in London.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told journalists that the Russian security forces harassment of British Council staff was deeply worrisome.

“Any intimidation or harassment of officials is obviously completely unacceptable,” he said. “The only losers from any attack on the British Council are Russian citizens who want to use the British Council - and the reputation of the Russian government.”

Russian police detained the director of the British Council in St. Petersburg, Stephen Kinnock, and accused him of “drunken driving” on Tuesday night. Kinnock is the son of long time British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Kinnock was released after an hour, but security forces began calling in British Council staffers in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg during the day on Wednesday.