Brits Close Russian Offices Over Brouhaha

'Cold War' intimidation of cultural centers' staff has minister outraged
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2008 10:30 AM CST
A Russian police officer leaves the British Council office, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008. The confrontation over the council, an international cultural body funded by the British government,...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – After days of what Britain called “Soviet-era” intimidation tactics, the British Council today closed its offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, the Times reports. Britain had tried to keep the cultural centers going, despite Russian orders to close them, but after staff members were subjected to multiple visits—and many personal questions— from the FSB, the KGB’s successor, the Council’s CEO said he feared for his staff’s safety.

The FSB told Council staffers, who are Russian citizens,  they were working to illegally help foreign powers. “We saw similar actions during the Cold War,” said Britain’s irate foreign secretary. The Russians had accused the Council of violating tax laws, the latest in a string of retaliatory measures on both sides since the poisoning of a former KGB officer in London in 2006 by suspected Russian spies.