2007-12-26 05:17:19 xinhuanet
MOSCOW, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- Moscow expects Britain to take the initiative in improving relations with Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.
"We value our partnership with Britain. But it was they who took the first step in the creation of the current situation. So we expect from them another first step to rectify it," Lavrov was quoted by the Russian daily Vremya Novostei as saying Wednesday.
In July, Britain asked Russia to hand over Andrei Lugovoi, whom British prosecutors have charged with murdering Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian exile who died at a London hospital in November 2006 after the two met at a hotel in central London.
Relations between the two countries slumped to an all-time low after Russia rejected the extradition request. London expelled Russian diplomats, imposed visa restrictions and suspended anti-terrorism cooperation with Russia. In retaliation, Moscow also expelled British diplomats.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier this month that all regional offices of the British Council in Russia will be closed from Jan. 1, 2008.
"In response to Britain's measures to freeze talks on an agreement to ease visa regulations, we froze talks on the agreement on cultural centers," Lavrov said.
The non-governmental organization, which is the cultural arm of the British Embassy and promotes educational and cultural programs, first established an office in Moscow in the 1990s. It later went on to open a further 14 offices across Russia.
Russia's Foreign Ministry has said there is no bilateral status agreement in place to permit the opening of these regional offices, and the British Council had made no request to open them.