Russia orders British Council offices to stop operations

Russia on Wednesday ordered a British cultural organization to suspend all of its operations outside Moscow at the beginning of 2008, the latest move in a long-running dispute. Russian officials accused the British Council, a non-governmental organization that acts as the cultural department of the British Embassy, of operating illegally in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. The order from Russian officials, who have long claimed the council is a for-profit organization subject to taxation, comes amid broader tensions between Russia. "This is disturbing and in our view, illegal," a senior British Foreign Office official told The Associated Press in London, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with ministry practice.