Thursday, January 17, 2008


The British Council and Litvinenko

Okay I will tell you what I know and what I think about the whole British Council row.
Firstly, it is possible that this is linked to the Litvinenko death but it is much more than just that. The British seem to be confused by the idea that Russia will not hand over Lugovoi for trial. There is no confusion. Russia's constitution does not allow it to do this. Therefore, Russia cannot hand over anyone for trial in Britain. The second point to this, that I have written before, is why should Russia hand over Lugovoi when Britain does not hand over Boris Berezofsky, wanted for corruption, and Akmad Zakayef, wanted on charges of terrorism. Do they think because they are Britain that they can do one thing and expect Russia to do another?
On to the British Council itself. It has long had problems in Russia, and obviously now the Kremlin is no longer prepared to turn blind eyes. The BC offers English classes to the public which are far more expensive than those of other schools. And yet it is classified as a charity. Being classified as a charity means it pays no income tax. This is hardly fair on all the other English schools that abide by the tax laws. If it does not want to pay the tax then it must fall under the cover of diplomatic missions - for Britain, consulates general. If the BC chooses diplomatic cover then it had no right to operate in St Petersburg of Yekaterinburg.
When Downing Street says that the council is operating legally under international law it is fantasizing. There is a hole in the agreements between the government and council which still has to be closed. This has not happened because of the Litvinenko row. So that is why the foreign affairs ministry of Russia has pointed to Litvinenko as the cause, not because it is any "tit for tat" response.
There is an opinion that the British Council activity “does not fully comply with the Russian government resolution “On the Establishment and Terms of Operation of Foreign Cultural and Information Centers on the Territory of the Russian Federation”,” Chairman of the Federation Council International Affairs Committee Mikhail Margelov said.
For instance, the resolution compels the centres to receive permission from Russian authorities before opening. The Vienna Consular Convention says that all entities enjoying privileges and immunities must respect laws and rules of the host state, he said.
Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachyov said: “The United Kingdom is the only member state of the European Union and, probably, the only foreign partner of Russia, which is trying to thrust its own lifestyle on us and establish the rules, which may be convenient for the UK but have not been discussed and are hardly equally convenient for us,” he said.

Other EU member countries that have their cultural offices in Russia, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, “are acting in a totally different way. They fully comply with Russian laws and intergovernmental agreements,” Kosachyov said.

“We will insist that the UK must bring the British Council activity in correspondence with international laws, EU traditions and, what is the most important, Russian laws,” he said.
Furthermore it is an open secret that the BC is used as a front for MI6. Not only that but there have been reports of Russian students using the council's tuition being recruited for the British Intelligence services. This is again, not something new and only to be expected under such circumstance.
However, the UK's blatant meddling in the last Russian election in its bid to unseat Putin did not go down well with citizens. It's fanatical acceptance and promotion of "the other Russia" calling it a "democratic opposition movement" was duly noted. The fact that pre-election the British Ambassador Anthony S. Brenton spoke at one of this party's meetings was also duly noted, as was his call to crack down on freedom of expression when young Russians held an anti-facist rally outside his home. The ambassador is supposed to be a diplomat not a political campaigner. How many people in the UK would welcome Russian interference in their elections?
The British media failed to note that about 95% of the members of "the other Russia" are ultranationalists and cranks from the National Bolshevik Party. Its portrayal of Garry Kasparov as "the voice of the citizens" was a joke. The man could not even scrape together enough support to make a run for the presidency.
The constant rumblings against Putin taking a third term are again, complete double standards. When Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev did that, and held deeply flawed elections in May which saw only a single party represented, the American Embassy described it as “a good move for democracy”.
The constant whining about Russian elections being "rigged" is nothing more than lies. Putin enjoys a huge popularity among Russian people and the results of the elections went just the way they said it would. They voted as expected.
It is interesting to note the UK's double standards when it comes to Russia. It will whine about "human rights abuses" in Russia but has no voice when it comes to the suffering of ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia.
Britain stands isolated from the rest of the world in this row, as it did in the Litvinenko row. Its childish petulance has distanced it from Europe and is a testimony to its own diplomatic failure to deal with the confident and stronger Russia. When Russia was struggling under the Yeltsin puppet government the UKUS kicked it like a cur and that will not be forgotten so easily by Russia's people or government. The UK bends at the knee to Syria and Iran and even to its own Islamic extremists at home. It harbours Russian criminals.
The reality is that Britian is now paying for its ridiculously hostile policies to Russia and its dog-like devotion to the United States. If Britain was more co-operative with Europe and Russia this kind of thing would not be happening.
Russia has been provoked and humiliated at every turn with Britain. The UK continues to poke the bear, and if you poke the bear you will get the claws. How can the UK be so arrogant as to say that it will continue operating these councils in the face of their illegality?

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It was interesting to read the Times report on the FSB's saying the British Council is a front for spies. That took them four paragraphs and the rest was just thrashing Russia over "democracy" and not extraditing Lugovoy. I can't understand how journalists can be sto stupid.
Britain thinks Russia is their colony.
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