British Council offices' work in Russia to be suspended

Other News Materials 17 January 2008 17:01 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The British Council will suspend its work in two offices in Russia following a "campaign of intimidation" against staff, the head of the cultural organization said Thursday.

The British Council's chief executive, Martin Davidson, said the Russian authorities had made the work of his organization "impossible."

The two offices concerned, in St Petersburg and Yekatarinenburg, would therefore remain closed while its operations were suspended.

Davidson said the Russian authorities had subjected "innocent individuals" among his offices' Russian staff to a "campaign of intimidation."

Their safety remained of "paramount concern."

Davidson said it was "wrong of the Russian authorities to link cultural relations with a political dispute."

The row over the Council's activities in Russia is seen as being linked to wider tension arising from the death of ex-agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in November 2006.

The cultural organization's director was arrested on charges of drunk driving, reports said Wednesday.

Stephen Kinnock, director of the British Council for north-west Russia and the son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock who chairs the organization, was arrested late Tuesday night while driving in St Petersburg, police said.