Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Governor-General Issues Statement on Recent Russian Actions.

We strongly regret seeing reports of an escalation of actions taken by Russian authorities against the staff and activities of the British Council in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. The offices were ordered to shut-down in a continuing dispute over ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko's death in London.

Russian authorities informed the British Ambassador in Moscow on 14 January that they intended "to take a series of administrative measures against the British Council. The British Council operates in 110 other countries and territories worldwide and its efforts to promote cultural and educational exchanges play a vital role in increasing understanding between the peoples of the United Kingdom and Russia. Its presence and activities are also specifically sanctioned by a 1994 UK/Russia Agreement on Co-operation in Education, Science and Culture, signed by Russia.

We hope this matter will be quickly and fairly resolved so that the British Council will be able continue its good work in Russia.

We call upon the Russian government to hand over Andrei Lugovoi, who British prosecutors have charged with murdering a Russian exile who died at a London hospital in November 2006 after the two met at a central London hotel.

We call upon the Russian government to abide by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

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