Moscow's tit-for-tat diplomatic row with the UK continues to escalate as British officials defied Russian orders to close two cultural offices, the BBC reports. Russia called the reopening of British Council offices in St. Petersburg and the Urals city of Yekaterinburg an "intentional provocation aimed at inflaming tensions," and warned that new employees for the offices would be refused visas.
Russians had accused the Council of violating tax laws; Britain's ambassador insisted any action against the cultural centers would breach international law. Relations between the two countries have been icy since the poisoning of a former KGB officer in London in 2006 by suspected Russian spies. British Council staff have returned to work but are awaiting Russia's next move.