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Russia calls new reasons for closing British Council
December 28, 2007 14:47

Earlier in December Russia has announced about the obligatory closing down of all out of Moscow offices of the British Council. The lack of legal basis and problems with taxation were called the main reasons. Now the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs reveals other aspects of mutual reclamations and expects Britain to make advances.

December 2, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs demanded to close all British Council offices except the main one in Moscow, claiming that none of the regional offices has legal status.

The British Foreign Office has appealed to Moscow to revise its decision. Moscow has claimed that its blocking the negotiations with London on the legal status of the cultural centers was tit for tat response for British suspension of negotiations on easing visa regimes between our countries.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign affaires, blames London in damaging the bilateral relations. The apple of discord is the case of an ex-FSB agent Mr. Litvinenko, who was killed last year in London. After Russias refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the main suspect in the killing, London had to expose repressive measures. Among these measures Moscow points out the extradition of four Russian diplomats in July this year, the suspension of cooperation on the FSB line and what is especially emphasized the ceasing negotiations on the easing visa regime. The Russian Minister added that the last point is carefully hushed up by London.

Referring to Mr. Lavrov, Moscow expects London to make advances. Apart from political reasons Moscow backs its decision to close the Council with legal reasons. The Council functions on the agreement of 1994, which doesnt describe the legal status of the Council in details. The agreements signed between the Council and local authorities in the Russian regions dont have force on the international level.

The negotiations between Russia and Britain on a new bilateral agreement, which is to regulate the council's activities in the regions, have been held for ten years. But no decision has been reached. Both sides blame each other for dragging out of signing.

The British side regards the Council closure as illegal. According to the James Kennedy, the director of the British Council in Russia, the British Foreign Office tried to hold negotiation on settling a new agreement, which would state the legal status of the British Council in Russia and similar Russian centers in Britain. Unfortunately, the Russian side has refused to sign this agreement. Britain links the Russias decision with political Britain-Russian problems.

Britain insists that the British Council is a cultural institution, not political, thats why it is indignant at Russias reluctance to cooperate. London supposes in this way that Moscow only tries to deviate form any negotiations on the Litvinenko case.

The shutting down of the British Council will have an aversive affect first of all on the common Russians.

The British Council is an organization funded by the British Government, which is in charge for academic, science and cultural exchange between Britain and other countries. It assists foreign citizens to get British education and scholarships, it organizes English teaching process, holds scientific, art, literature and design exhibitions.


Irina Fomina


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