British Council set to ignore Russian ban?

According to the British Embassy in Moscow, two offices of the British Council will continue to work in Russia's regions after the winter holidays despite a Russian demand that they close by January 1.

Russia ordered the closure in mid-December saying the organisation has no legal basis for its work outside Moscow and also that it's violated tax laws.

Russia says the issue can be resolved if the two countries agree on the operation of British cultural centres on Russian territory.

Negotiations were suspended last summer following a cooling in Russian-British relations over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Russia's refusal to extradite Andrey Lugovoy, whom Britain suspects of being involved, has led to retaliatory measures by both sides.

British authorities deny the council has breached any laws, insisting it was operating in compliance with Russian and international legislation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the decision to close the offices was not linked to the tension in Russia-Britain political relations and is purely and simply for legal reasons.