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Ambassador: Extended visa delays “shrinking” Russian embassy in London

Ambassador: Extended visa delays “shrinking” Russian embassy in London

Moscow is forced to reduce its diplomatic presence in London because of visa delays

Russian embassy in London is “shrinking.”

According to the Russian officials, the extended delays by British authorities in issuing visas to Russian diplomats and embassy staff are forcing Moscow to reduce its diplomatic presence in British capital.

In a sign of increasingly deteriorating relations between Moscow and London, Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko strongly criticized British leaders and accused the government of delaying the granting of visas to Russian staff at the London embassy.

He said Moscow was forced to reduce its diplomatic presence in London because of visa delays, sometimes of over a year, meaning “some people are leaving without being replaced.”

Yakovenko, ambassador since 2011, wondered whether Britain wanted “an adequate Russian diplomatic presence” in the country.

“[We think] it is [because of] Ukraine and Syria,” he said. “We are trying to understand whether Britain wants to have an adequate Russian diplomatic presence in London, but the embassy is shrinking and if it continues the embassy will be reduced further.”

“People cannot be replaced because the visas are not being issued,” he said. “I hope this problem will be resolved under present government.”

“Here in London, we simply do not understand the strategy of this country on visa issues,” he added.

The ambassador also complained about British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issuing “anti-Russian statements”.

May recently accused the Russian military of committing sickening atrocities in the Syrian city of Aleppo, and Johnson said that Russia’s actions in Syria constituted to war crimes.

Relations between London and Moscow have been very tense over their differences over the years-old Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Syrian crisis.

Russia has been engaged in an aerial campaign against anti-Assad rebel groups in Syria upon a request by the government of dictator Bashar al-Assad for more than one year. Their air raids have killed many civilians, and caused extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure

The UK, along with the United States and other allies, has been conducting an anti-terror campaign in Syria and neighboring Iraq for more than two years.

Russia has been supporting the Assad regime in its push to take back Aleppo from the rebels.

The US carries out airstrikes as well as operations on the ground through its special forces against terrorist targets.

Earlier this week, the British bank National Westminster closed down the accounts of the Kremlin mouthpiece – broadcaster RT.

Ambassador Yakovenko on Saturday said that four other Russian “news agencies”, including state-owned RIA Novosti, had their British bank accounts closed up before RT suffered the same problem.

He questioned freedom of press in the country while foreign media outlets are being “targeted”.

“This is a problem of free speech in [the UK],” the ambassador said. “The clear conclusion is that the Russian alternative point of view is not welcome here. Their aim is to make the work of this channel impossible in this country.”

“RT is an alternative point of view — you call it propaganda, but we call it an alternative point of view,” he said.

In a letter to RT’s London office, the British bank NatWest announced on Monday that it would no longer count the channel as a client, but stopped short of specifying the reason.

NatWest said the decision was final and that it was “not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it.”

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