Search

 

Cablegate: Russians Petition Putin to Re-Open British Council

VZCZCXRO1775
PP RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0315 0381258
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071258Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6434
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS MOSCOW 000315

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM PREL SOCI RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIANS PETITION PUTIN TO RE-OPEN BRITISH COUNCIL
OFFICES

REF: A. MOSCOW 270
B. MOSCOW 103

1. (SBU) Summary: On January 24, a group of Russian
graduates of British universities sent a letter to Putin
asking that he allow the British Council offices to reopen.
The letter asked that cultural and exchange programs not be
held hostage to the current chilly relations between Russia
and Britain. The GOR has not responded to the request and, in
the meantime, the St. Petersburg British Council office
officially ceased operations. Only the Moscow office
continues to operate unimpeded. End summary.

A Plea from Russian Citizens
----------------------------

2. (SBU) Following rare public criticism of Putin's foreign
policy (ref A) by senior GOR officials, more than 150 Russian
citizens on January 24 signed a letter to Putin asking him to
allow the British Council to re-open its regional offices.
All of the signatories had graduated from a British institute
of higher education, which they attended with assistance from
the British Council. The letter noted the damage caused to
Russia's international reputation and enumerated the benefits
Russia received through cultural cooperation with Britain via
the Council. In particular, the letter stated that the
Council filled a niche "for which Russia had neither the
resources nor the knowledge." Although the coordinators of
the petition informed the British Embassy of the letter in
advance, no one at the Embassy initiated or assisted the
effort.

3. (SBU) The request followed the shuttering of the British
Council offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg in
January due to GOR pressure on the local staff (ref B) in the
wake of continued Russian unhappiness with HMG's efforts to
extradite Litvinenko. The St. Petersburg office released its
staff and moved all materials to its Moscow office, which
operates unimpeded. On February 6, we received word that the
British Council had canceled its lease on the office space it
had been using in St. Petersburg, and its UK staff have
departed the country.

4. (SBU) A British Embassy colleague told us February 6 the
UK was pleased by the petition. However, he saw no sign that
tensions with the GOR were abating. With the British Council
unwilling to subject its Russian employees to harassment from
the Federal Security Service, he expected no change in the
status quo.

5. (SBU) Comment: This rare public protest is a tribute to
the value and effectiveness of international exchanges, as
well as evidence of the disconnect between the freeze in
GOR-UK relations and London's status as a home away from home
for an increasing slice of Russian elite.
BURNS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: