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British Council Shut Down, FSB Blamed

Published: January 18, 2008 (Issue # 1340)



  • A woman attempts to visit the British Council offices in St. Petersburg on Wednesday afternoon. The British Council fully shut down its operations on Thursday.
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

  • Stephen Kinnock
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

The British Council suspended its activities in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg on Wednesday, and expressed the hope that its Moscow office would be able to continue the work.

Stephen Kinnock, head of the British Council office in St. Petersburg, told The St. Petersburg Times on Thursday that there was very little chance the St. Petersburg office would reopen in the foreseeable future.

In a statement issued from London earlier Thursday, British Council Chief Executive Martin Davidson said that the Russian authorities have made it impossible for us to operate in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg so I have taken the decision to suspend operations in both cities.

Kinnock added, We had no choice because of all the pressure we had.

Davidson said the Council was concerned about the wellbeing of our staff.

I feel we cannot continue our work without significant risk to them, Davidson said, referring to a campaign of intimidation against the Councils staff he said had been initiated by the Russian government at the beginning of this week.

On Tuesday Jan. 15, the Russian State Security Services (FSB) summoned over 20 Russian staff to attend individual interviews. Late that night 10 members of staff were visited at home by the Russian tax police and called for further interviews [on Wednesday], Davidson said on Thursday.

He said the interviews had little to do with their work and were clearly aimed at exerting undue pressure on innocent individuals.

Davidson said it was wrong to draw cultural relations and the British Council into an international political dispute.

Im bitterly disappointed that the Russian authorities have sought to limit our cultural and educational links at the very time when they can be of most value, he said.

Davidson said that he reiterated that the British Council operates in Russia in full accordance with international and Russian law, adding that the British Council remains committed to Russia and hopes to continue to work with our one-and-a-quarter million Russian partners and customers from our Moscow office.

Meanwhile, Britains foreign minister David Miliband criticized the actions of Russia.

Such actions deserve reproach and are not worthy of a great country, Miliband said in a statement to the British parliament on Thursday, Interfax said.

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Thursday, Apr. 24


Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.


AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.



Friday, Apr. 25


Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from www.culturalkitchen.fi.



Saturday, Apr. 26


At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.



Sunday, Apr. 27


Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.



Monday, Apr. 28


The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.



Tuesday, Apr. 29


Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.