The Kremlin has accused Britain of “expelling” four of its diplomats by changing visa policy.
In a strongly-worded attack, the Russian Embassy in London accused the Home Office and Foreign Office of attempting to “wreck the international order” and violating the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations by extending the diplomats’ visas by just three months instead of one or two years.
It accused the Home Office of declaring them “personae non gratae” and of effectively telling them to “pack up” and leave.
One of the diplomats involved is thought to be Sergey Nabolin, who became known for forging close links with Westminster journalists, bloggers, and even Members of Parliament who were ever present at his parties, and had him on speed-dial.
The Telegraph reports a spokesman for the Russian Embassy called it an attempt at “diminishing and limiting the Russian diplomatic presence in the UK and to hamper our work”.
“In spite of our repeated appeals, this British ‘know-how’ has been already deployed by the Home Office in coordination with the Foreign Office. This is evidenced by the fact that our senior diplomat had to depart the UK last month because his visa was not extended, another diplomat left without replacement this month, two staff members would have to leave for the same reason,” the embassy added.
“The imposition of time limit equals a declaration of a member of the mission persona non-grata, effected in contravention of Article 9 of the said Convention. In practice it means expulsion.”
The row comes a week after a British enquiry into the death of spy Alexander Litvenenko wrapped up. The enquiry heard accusations that Vladminir Putin personally ordered Litvenenko’s killing, something has angered the Russian government.
Prime Minister David Cameron also accused Russia of “standing in the way of justice” after it vetoed a UN resolution to set up a criminal tribunal to prosecute those who shot down flight MH17. Russia has been linked to the disaster but again angrily denies any involvement.