THE Russian ambassador has triggered a new stand-off with Britain by accusing the police of treating Russian residents and tourists like the mafia.
Yuri Fedotov said that Russophobia was leading to problems ranging from discrimination in shops and restaurants to serious assaults.
I can quote examples where Russians were beaten by youngsters in London. Tourists, visitors, businessmen. They were severely beaten and the police did not open any investigation on these particular incidents. However, he claimed, offences committed by Russians were dealt with swiftly and disproportionately. I have an example when a woman had a minor violation, a traffic violation, and she was arrested by police force, lots of cars, handcuffed.
Russia has become increasingly important to Britain. More than 170,000 Russian tourists visit every year and more than 2,000 Russian students are enrolled at British universities.
Annual trade with Russia has risen to more than £7 billion and Russians have spent more than £2.2 billion on property here since 2000 more than was spent by people from the Middle East and US combined.
The Russian and British governments have publicly indicated that they would like closer links. Fedotov said: I hope that we will be able to overcome the current stage and we will be able to improve our relations.