The head of the British Council's office in St Petersburg was detained on drink-driving charges in the latest escalation of the UK- Russia diplomatic dispute which yesterday saw the KGB successor agency enter the fray.
Stephen Kinnock - the son of Lord Kinnock, the former leader of the Labour Party and chairman of the British Council - was stopped by traffic police in the Russian city at 11.30pm on Tuesday after being followed and accused of driving the wrong way up a one-way street. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, police detected a "heavy smell of alcohol" on his breath. He was held for an hour before being released.
It is not known if the allegations against Mr Kinnock are founded as he declined to take a breathalyser test in line with international convention. The timing of the arrest appeared suspicious as it coincided with heightened tensions following the British decision on Monday to defy orders to close two British Council offices in Russia which were accused of operating illegally.
Russia used similar tactics in the recent past against Georgian officials during a crisis between Moscow and the Western-leaning former Soviet republic.
The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, warned that "any intimidation or harassment of officials is obviously completely unacceptable" after it emerged that the FSB, the successor organisation of the KGB, summoned for questioning Russian nationals working for the council in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.
The St Petersburg office was forced to shut "temporarily" because of the FSB summons to local employees yesterday, some of whom had been visited on Tuesday night by interior ministry officials.
The Russian ambassador to the UK, Yuri Fedotov, was called to the Foreign Office by the head of the diplomatic service, who rejected the allegations against the council and urged Russian authorities not to target the cultural relations between the two countries.
A British Council spokeswoman …