Nashi Writes to Her Majesty

MTNashi activists protesting outside the British Embassy on Wednesday.
Several dozen activists from the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi picketed outside the British Embassy on Wednesday and presented diplomats with a letter to Queen Elizabeth II calling for the removal of British Ambassador Anthony Brenton.

Nashi also said it was suing Brenton on the grounds that he had broken international law by meddling in Russia's internal affairs.

The movement's grievance dates to July 2006, when Brenton attended the inaugural conference of The Other Russia, an anti-Kremlin coalition that includes Eduard Limonov, founder of the banned National Bolshevik Party.

Nashi calls Limonov a fascist. It also alleges that Brenton promised to give ?1 million, or just over $2 million, to The Other Russia -- a claim the British Embassy labeled absurd.

"This would be the same as if we went to America and started giving money to the Ku Klux Klan," Alexander Gagiyev, a co-organizer of the protest, said outside the embassy Wednesday.

As Gagiyev spoke, activists chanted slogans, waved red-and-white Nashi flags and held posters featuring Brenton's face, stamped with the English word "Loser."

Nashi's letter to Queen Elizabeth II said the ambassador should be fired because he had wasted British taxpayers' money.

Konstantin Goloskokov, another co-organizer of the picket, said Nashi would file a lawsuit against Brenton in Moscow's Presnensky District Court on Wednesday, on the grounds that he had violated the Vienna Convention, which states that diplomats may not interfere in the internal affairs of their host countries.

Brenton's diplomatic immunity protects him only from criminal and administrative law, not civil lawsuits, Goloskokov said.

Nashi is not planning further street protests against Brenton, Goloskokov said. In late 2006, the movement's activists repeatedly heckled him at public appearances, eventually prompting a complaint from the British Foreign Office.

A spokesman for the British Embassy confirmed that diplomats had received Nashi's letter to the queen and said it would be passed on to the Foreign Office in London.

But he did not expect the queen -- who knighted Brenton earlier this year -- to heed Nashi's request.

"The demand that the ambassador be removed is laughable," the spokesman said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

The decision to confer the knighthood on Brenton was made by the British government and was only confirmed by the queen as a formality. The same would be the case with any decision to replace him in Moscow.

The spokesman denied that Brenton had promised money for The Other Russia and added that Nashi's claim was based on a misunderstanding of Brenton's speech at the July 2006 conference, in which the ambassador referred to British funding for civil society groups.

"I think they got their wires slightly crossed," he said.