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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

Sunday, Dec. 21


The Zenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the clubs website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.


Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.



Monday, Dec. 22


Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.



Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBAs and Capital Legal Services event Arctic Expedition this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



Wednesday, Dec. 24


The Anglican Church of St. Petersburg we will be holding a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. led by Rev Wm. Shepley Curtis of the Episcopal Church. The service will be held at the Swedish Church at 1/3 Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa.



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