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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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