The British Council looks set for an unlikely showdown with the Russian government over Russia’s order to close two of its offices.
According to BBC News, the British Council will refuse to close its St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg offices next week, despite an official demand from the Russian authorities, who claim they are operating illegally. The British Council claims that it offices’ operations are:
“…fully in compliance with the relevant Russian laws and there is no reason to close them.”
If the British Council feel they are acting legally, they must be prepared to rely on Russian law to back them up. Does this mean that they plan to drag the Russian government through its own courts in order to prove the point?
I wonder who would win that epic battle? Either way, it will make for a fascinating piece of public theatre, in which the Russian government probably doesn’t want play a part…
And, more immediately, what is going to happen to the British Council offices next week, when Russia re-opens for business after its Christmas break?
Presumably, if the British Council are publicly refusing to close their offices next week, they plan to send their staff into work next Monday.
How will the Russian government react?
Will Russian police throw a ring of steel around the British Council’s offices to prevent a few language teachers from getting to work? Or will they wait until the staff are already in their offices, and a crime seems to be taking place, before raiding the offices of the British Council in full riot gear?
Or will the plucky British Council staff just go to work as usual while the Russian government stands impotently by and watches them teach English to its citizens?