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Russia: Moscow Britons Largely Unconcerned By Diplomatic Row

MOSCOW, July 19, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Britons living in Moscow say they hope the diplomatic row between Russia and the United Kingdom won't escalate further. But they are determined not to let the deterioration of political relations between the two countries affect the way they live and work in Moscow, as they have been telling RFE/RL.

John Warren, director of Warren's Sausages.

"[I'm] a Brit living in Russia for the last 16 years. For the last three years I've been making sausages, and before that I was a grain trader. I suppose it's closer to home than most other problems that Russia might have with other countries. I take it closer to heart. I just hope that it's not going to escalate into some ridiculously petty and rather childish escalation of making life difficult for people living on the ground. I don't think it will, but I suppose there's that worry in the background.

"Does it change the way I'm going to live my life? Absolutely not. I mean all my friends, I think, see both sides for what might be right or wrong, and don't cast any judgment whatsoever. I don't think I'm going to be attacked by skinheads or [Kremlin-backed youth group] Nashi or anybody like that. I'll just carry on living my life. I'm so minutely small, you know. I'm not BP or Shell or somebody like that.

"It's sad, though, because you kind of want your countries to be getting on, considering you're from one of them and you live in the other but [laughs] that's the way it goes. Everybody has tiffs."

Richard Hobart, tourist.

"I am a tourist -- first time in Russia. I think I was probably slightly nervous about coming to Russia anyway, just because it's a new country, and I've never visited before. And obviously there's quite a lot of history between the East and the West. So when the political spat did blow up, I think it did increase, perhaps slightly, my nervousness. But I think probably more so, just when you're talking to your parents about where you're going.

"But I think most of the press that came out -- it was pretty clear from the embassies that it is political, and it shouldn't affect any either investment interests or tourists' interests. So I think probably I was a little more nervous when I was getting on the plane, but once we arrived in Russia, to be honest, nobody's reacted any differently, I don't think. And you forget about it and you get on with your holidays as you probably would have."

Ann Brown, mother of two.

"My name is Ann Brown and I live here in Moscow. My husband is Russian. I've lived in Russia for various stints. For the last three years I've been living here, but I lived here from 1997 to 1999 and I came here as a student in the late 1980s.

"It hasn't affected me personally, mostly because people in the street don't necessarily know I'm British. There is quite a lot of it on the Russian news, which I tend to watch, and I do feel that at the moment there's quite a strong campaign to make people a bit antagonistic towards Britain. On the whole, I think the Russians that I know are not that concerned, they tend to see the [former Russian security officer Aleksandr] Litvinenko story as something very far away from them that happened in another country. And they also tend to believe the Berezovsky version, that's the only one that they get from the news.

"From the information that I've got talking to various people around me, they tend to see it all as something [like a] spin-doctor operation by Berezovsky, all this thing with Litvinenko, and they seem to feel that all the animosity towards the whole British story is justified, because Berezovsky is not a positive person. They tend to see him as a bad oligarch, someone who's raided the state.

"On a personal level, I'm just wondering what it's going to mean for us when we go in and out of Britain. The rest of the time people don't necessarily know we're British. The most worrying thing is more when you go in and out of the country, they can be picky about whether everything's all right with your visa, or things like that. And also applying for visas, which can always become more and more complicated -- it's already not that easy on either side -- but I think that might get worse.

"So obviously it's very worrying. Is it just a short-term little war, or is it a symptom of something bigger going on that's being stirred up at the top? It's difficult to tell. There's a kind of pre-election heating up going on at the moment, and I think that that might be part of it. I would say that I don't anticipate things to get that much easier for the next few months."

Harriet Kalinin, PR and marketing manager.

"It's not really affecting day-to-day life. To be honest with you, I don't think about it that much, because it just doesn't affect us. I'm obviously watching the news, but I don't see how it's going to affect us.

"[Having a Russian husband and owning a flat in Moscow] probably gives me a better understanding of living here and how things work, as opposed to just living in one of the compounds and being shut off from everyday life.

"My Russian's not that great, so I watch the foreign news. In terms of the balance, there's two sides to every story, whatever news you watch. So basically I just watch it and draw my own conclusions. We both agree that it really doesn't affect us that much, but obviously we're keeping an eye on it all. But it's not going to make a huge difference, I think, to our lives."

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