Britain’s ambassador to Moscow today demanded Vladimir Putin end his war against Ukraine as she was heckled by onlookers amid her arrival in far east Russia.
Envoy Dame Deborah Bronnert ran a gauntlet of loud-mouthed propagandists who followed her down the street as she arrived for a visit to the Kremlin’s Pacific capital Vladivostok.
One told her repeatedly: ‘You are not welcome here,’ while another loudly declared: ‘Britain is a sponsor of terrorism.’
The ambassador told the small stage-managed protest: ‘We want peace,’ and tried to continue speaking but was quickly cut off and told time and again that Britain was ‘a sponsor of terrorism’.
But she hit back: ‘We want peace. Russia must stop the war.’
British Ambassador Dame Deborah Bronnert demands Russian stops the war in Ukraine as she arrives in Vladivostok on March 7, 2023
Bronnert was met with hecklers and protestors holding placards
Previous diplomatic visits also saw protestors turn out to greet Bronnert with placards labelling Britain a terrorist state
British Ambassador Dame Deborah Bronnert (L) pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R)
Bronnert came to Vladivostok – seven time zones east of her permanent residence in Moscow – to visit the city and a war cemetery.
Reports said she had no official meetings with the pro-war authorities in the city.
The envoy has encountered several similar protests in recent months amid Russia’s war in Ukraine condemned by the UK, particularly in Yekaterinburg and in the Russian capital.
In November, she ran afoul of pro-Putin protestors in Moscow when she was summoned by Russian authorities amid claims that Britain helped plan attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines and its Black Sea Fleet.
Bronnert was hauled into the foreign ministry and forced to push through what appeared to be stage-managed protesters holding placards that said ‘Britain is a terrorist state’ and ‘Britain will answer for the Nord Stream’.
Moscow said it had delivered a ‘strong protest’ to the envoy, adding that ‘such confrontational actions of the English carry a threat of escalation and could lead to unpredictable and dangerous consequences.’
Deborah Bronnert, the British ambassador to Russia, was summoned to the foreign ministry in November to see ‘evidence’ the UK helped attack the Nord Stream pipes and Black Sea Fleet
Protesters – who appeared to be stage-managed – carried banners reading ‘Britain is a terrorist state’ and ‘Britain will answer for the Nord Stream’
Russia has ramped up the rhetoric against the UK as its invasion in Ukraine has faltered, with Western officials saying the wild claims are a distraction tactic
Demonstrations in central Moscow are rare and usually quickly crushed by police – suggesting Thursday’s action was carried out with tacit support from authorities
Britain is likely being targeted because it is leading support for Ukraine – having given more than any other country bar the US
Bronnert lives in Moscow with her husband Alf Torrents, who is the leader of a business forum designed to boost trade with Russian firms – despite sanctions against Putin’s regime.
Torrents, 57, is executive director of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, leaving his wife facing questions over whether her role representing Britain’s interests in Russia is conflicted by his job.
There was an outcry last month after the Daily Mail revealed that British luxury brands such as Rolls-Royce were still trading in Russia.
In peacetime, Torrents’s organisation lobbied to smooth trade with the Putin regime. In 2016 – two years after the Kremlin annexed Crimea – it urged Parliament to ‘reinstate Russia as a worldwide trade and investment priority’ and ‘re-evaluate sanctions’.
Although it scaled back its operations after the invasion of Ukraine, it remains active, and recently advertised for a new treasurer.
Last week, Torrents hosted an event to ‘update’ members on the political, trade and consular situation. Held at the British embassy, it was addressed by Bronnert.
Alf Torrents, 57, is executive director of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, leaving Bronnert facing questions over whether her role representing Britain’s interests in Russia is conflicted by his job
Torrents, who lives with his wife at the official British residence, a 19th-century merchant’s house opposite the Kremlin, told in 2020 how his chamber of commerce held ‘regular consultations’ with the Foreign Office, whose diplomats had ‘never been anything but supportive’.
In another interview he said he worked ‘closely’ with the British embassy to ‘represent the interests of our members’.
When Bronnert, 55, was announced in 2019 as ambassador to Russia, the official notice did not mention Torrents or his job, in contrast to her previous appointment as ambassador to Zimbabwe, when he was named.
Since Ukraine was invaded, the UK has tried to isolate Russia on the international stage and enforce strict sanctions. Trading there is all-but banned, and most British firms quit their Russian operations.
One informed source said of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce: ‘The question is whether a lobbying group – especially one that has argued vociferously against sanctions – should have such personal access to HM Ambassador to Moscow.’