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British Council in Russia told to “cease operations”

Animation

A Morning Stroll by Grant Orchard, shown as part of the British Council in Russia’s animation festival

The British Council in Russia has been forced to close in the wake of a diplomatic row between the two countries. It coincides with the news that 23 British diplomats have been asked to leave Russia in tit-for-tat expulsions following the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK. The pair, who became ill in Salisbury on 4 March, were poisoned with Russian-made nerve agent Novichok. The Russian government denies involvement.

A statement released by the British Council condemns the closure. “We are profoundly disappointed at this development,” it reads. “It is our view that when political or diplomatic relations become difficult, cultural relations and educational opportunities are vital to maintain on-going dialogue between people and institutions.”

A number of events have been cancelled this week, including a talk by Manchester International Festival artistic director John McGrath. According to Artnet, long-term projects affected by the row include a competition to select a Russian artist to develop a memorial dedicated to William Shakespeare in Moscow. 

The British Council statement continues, “We remain committed to the development of long-term people-to-people links with Russia as we do in over 100 other countries.”