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April 2018

Russia spy row hits British Council

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Russia has ordered the closure of British Council offices in the country as tensions mount over the use of a deadly nerve agent to poison former spy Sergei Skripal on UK soil.

The British press has reported that thousands of English language learners will be hit, but in fact the Russian government closed the Council’s teaching centres in 2007. Only online courses continued to be delivered.

Discussing the closure of the Council’s Moscow office, foreign secretary Boris Johnson remarked: ‘These futile measures will only punish ordinary Russians by depriving them of harmless opportunities to learn English.’

In 2007, after the murder of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in the UK using radioactive polonium, the Russian government forced the closure of all Council teaching centres in the country, on the grounds that it owed $6.6 million in unpaid taxes.

In 2009, a Russian court ruled that the government figure was unjustified.

The Council also closed its Russian international language exam centres in 2008, although it continued to offer ELT training programmes, seminars and online English courses.

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