LONDON (Reuters) - Russia’s envoy to Britain, in comments reflecting Moscow’s chilly ties with London, complained in an interview on Sunday that Russians in Britain were treated like the mafia and suffered assaults by nationalist groups.
Ambassador Yuri Fedotov said “russophobia” was prevalent in Britain, which has become a magnet to Russia’s super-rich since the break-up of the Soviet Union and is now home to some 400,000 Russians.
“I can quote examples where Russians were being beaten by youngsters in London. Tourists, visitors, businessmen,” he told The Sunday Times newspaper.
“They were severely beaten and the police did not open any investigation on these particular incidents,” he added. He said he had raised the issue of “developing Russophobia in Britain” with senior government figures.
Apart from super-wealthy Russians who have snapped up plush properties in an around the capital and become a major force in the art collecting world, more than 170,000 Russian tourists visit Britain each year.
Bilateral trade is worth some seven billion pounds a year.
But relations have been particularly tense since the death from radioactive poisoning in London of Russian emigre and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko last November.
The diplomatic feud deepened last week when Russia formally rejected London’s request to hand over ex-KGB body guard Andrei Lugovoy, suspected by British prosecutors of killing Litvinenko.
London had earlier declined to extradite to Moscow emigre multi-millionaire Boris Berezovsky, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, as well as rebel Chechen emissary Akhmed Zakayev. Both men have political refugee status in Britain.
The Russian envoy said offences committed by Russians in Britain 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,” he said. “Maybe that is as a result of the stereotype that any Russian is connected to the mafia.”
Fedotov said Russians had complained that “from time to time they encounter some sort of mistreatment” in London’s shops, restaurants or taxis.”
“It is hard to say whether it is some kind of Russophobia or whether it is a particular case of xenophobia which is developing here (in Britain),” he said.