Britain’s ambassador warned that Russia’s long-awaited cooperation agreement with the European Union could be threatened by British-Russian dispute over British Council, news agencies said Saturday, the AP said .
The British Council was accused of violating an international convention on consular affairs and so of operating illegally, pravda.ru previously reported.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also noted that Britain had drove out Russian diplomats in response to refusal to extradite the main suspect in Litvinenko’s killing, who died in London of poisoning by a radioactive isotope.
"This summer, the British side deliberately began worsening our relations by expelling our diplomats, by stopping contact with the Federal Security Service on anti-terror operations and by refusing to ease visa restrictions," Lavrov said.
"Such things are not tolerated in diplomacy, and as a countermeasure we ordered the suspension" of British Council operations in all cities except Moscow, he told reporters.
"It's obvious that Russian authorities want to close our offices down illegally," British Ambassador Anthony Brenton said on Ekho Moskvy radio.
Previous Russian complaints about the British Council focused on tax and legalistic issues, but were seen by many as reflecting growing tension between London and Moscow as well as Russian suspicion that Western NGOs aim to stir up discontent.