March 17, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that 23 British diplomats will be expelled from the country – a decision that was taken after similar actions by the UK in relation to the diplomatic mission of Russia. The reason for the aggravation of relations was an attempt on the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia in the British city of Salisbury.
Also in Russia “due to the unsettled status” decided to terminate the activities of the British Council, which has worked in the Russian Federation for more than 20 years. This measure aroused indignation among some users of Russian-language Twitter.
The British Council issued an official statement that was deeply disappointed by the decision of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In our opinion, when political or diplomatic relations become complex, cultural relations and educational opportunities are vital for maintaining a constant dialogue between people and organizations.
Британский Совет закрывают😭😭😭 Вот это реально ужасная новость. Там столько было бесплатных образовательных программ, мероприятий и для взрослых и для детей! Особенно для студентов инязов очень печальная новость((((
— Jane_Malkovich (@vesna_vesna_ves) March 17, 2018
The British Council is closed. 😭😭😭This is really terrible news. There were so many free educational programs, activities for both adults and children! Especially for the students of the elms is very sad news ((((
The British Council in Russia
The British Council is an international organization operating in more than a hundred countries around the world, primarily in the fields of education and culture.
- Free online English courses;
- Mobile applications and services that help to learn English (LearnEnglish Grammar, IELTS Wordpower, Sounds Right and others);
- The English Channel, with which you can learn the language, exploring the art of Britain;
- Publication of language teaching aids and teacher training;
- Participation in educational standards development programs;
- Preparation for language exams, from tests in English to qualification examinations for school and business programs;
- Education in the UK.
- Open lectures (Cultural Skills Academy Russia in conjunction with the Potanin Foundation);
- Exhibitions and tours of exhibitions of design, painting, sculpture and architecture (“Albion” by Matt Collischow);
- Annual New British Film Festival;
- Future Culture is a professional development program in the field of culture, designed to strengthen the links between beginners and experienced professionals in the field of culture in Russia and the United Kingdom;
- Music Festivals, Concerts and Radio Shows – The British Council releases its own radio program Selector, and a series of Russian parties Selector Live and Selector AfterDark in its support acquainted listeners with the work of the best young British musicians and DJs;
- Meetings, discussions and round tables with modern British writers.
On March 17, the Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Olga Vasilieva, said that all joint educational programs with the British Council would be suspended until a decision was made on the status of this organization in Russia.
However, this decision, she said, will not affect other programs with the UK in the field of education and science, including student exchange programs.
Difficulties with status in 2008
The conflict of 2018 was not the first, when the status of the British Council in Russia was in question. In January 2008, the Russian authorities demanded that the British Council offices in Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg be closed, as they did not have the necessary legal status.
In London they did not agree with the accusations, but the St. Petersburg branch was temporarily closed. At the door of the branch, the announcement was then posted: “The British Council in St. Petersburg is temporarily closed due to the latest actions taken by the Russian authorities against it.”
In 2008, the aggravation of Russian-British relations occurred against the background of the death in London of a former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko. Russia refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, whom the British called the main defendant. After that, London sent four Russian diplomats, and Moscow responded with similar measures.