British Council Office Defies Order

The British Council's office in Yekaterinburg opened after the extended holiday season Wednesday, defying a demand by the Foreign Ministry to suspend its activities until the British Embassy clarifies its status, Interfax reported.

Last month, the ministry ordered the British Council to close its offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg on Jan. 1.

But the Yekaterinburg office defied the order, and the St. Petersburg office will follow suit on Monday, said Yelena Chesnokova, a spokeswoman for the British Embassy's Consulate General in Yekaterinburg.

"The issue of the status [of the two offices] is currently being resolved on the diplomatic level," she said, Interfax reported.

The council, which is funded by the British government, acts as the cultural arm of the British Embassy.

The Foreign Ministry says the British Council should register as a nongovernmental organization and that it operates for profit since it makes money by offering paid English language courses.