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Russian media regrets British Council spat

Russian press graphic

The Russian media on the whole regrets the dispute between the British Council and the Russian government, but is divided over who is more to blame for the dispute.

Several commentators in the press believe the reasons given by the Russian authorities for shutting the organisation's offices are less than genuine, with one accusing Moscow of returning to Soviet practices.

However, Russia's main government-owned TV channel has accused Britain of politicizing a legal matter.

ILYA KRIGER IN NOVAYA GAZETA

When relations with the UK were more or less good, the activities of the British Council in the Russian regions did not cause fits of legal perfectionism on Russia's part. The most unpleasant thing about this situation is that this diplomatic-legal war poses a threat to a great number of education projects in which thousands of Russian citizens are involved.

COMMENTARY IN VEDOMOSTI

The situation with the British Council is reminiscent of the old parable of the pitcher. The housewife who broke her neighbour's pitcher offers up her explanations: first, I didn't take the pitcher; second, I took it but it was already cracked; third, I returned it intact. Each of these arguments on their own can be seen as convincing, but taken together they cancel each other out. In explaining their actions, the Russian authorities are also using several excuses, all at the same time.

VLADIMIR SKOSYREV IN NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA

The British are behaving impolitely, to put it mildly. The host is showing them the door, but they are not leaving. But, by taking such a harsh stand, Moscow reminds us of Soviet times, when citizens' interests were sacrificed for the interests of the state or the party.

GRIGORIY YEMELYANOV ON CHANNEL ONE TV

In its actions on Russian territory, the British Council is behaving as if Russian laws simply don't exist. They're not even trying to hide the fact that they have received instructions to this effect directly from London. The Foreign Office has made its position quite clear: the council's activities must continue come what may. They are trying to politicize a purely legal matter.

IRINA MATYUSHENKO ON REN TV

No-one is even concealing the fact that relations between Russia and Britain have reached the point of open confrontation. The Litvinenko affair, Boris Berezovsky's extradition, the problems with the exhibition of paintings from Russian museums and now the closure of the British Council - all links in the same chain.

LORD ROBERT SKIDELSKY IN VEDOMOSTI

It's extremely important that each country be given the opportunity to provide the other with a public explanation of its position. Otherwise we will slide towards a "Cold War of the minds". That's why the attack on the British Council is an extremely regrettable step. It strikes at the freedom of the flow of information, the lifeblood of a developed civilization.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




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