Russia evicts Polish consulate over USD 1 million unpaid rent
The Polish consulate was ordered today to vacate its offices in Russia's second largest city over an unpaid rent bill, which comes as the two nations engage in an increasingly acrimonious tit-for-tat.
St Petersburg: The Polish consulate was ordered today to vacate its offices in Russia's second largest city over an unpaid rent bill, which comes as the two nations engage in an increasingly acrimonious tit-for-tat.
The regional arbitration court ruled in favour of a state firm which sued the consulate over some 74 million rubles (USD 1.1 million, 960,000 euros) in unpaid rent, demanding that its staff be kicked out of the Saint Petersburg location.
Consulate officials "must pay Inpredservice debts in the amount of 74 million rubles and move out of the building," the court's press service said. Polish diplomats have occupied two city centre buildings since 1983.
Inpredservice, which leases space to foreign missions, argues the consulate has not paid rent since 1993 and that the lawsuit is merely for the last three years.
A representative of Inpredservice, Alexei Chernykh, was cited by Russian news agencies as saying there was "no political context" to the ruling, and that Poland is simply the only consulate in the city which is not paying its bills.
In a comment to Interfax news agency, the Polish embassy in Moscow said the decision to evict goes against the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.
Embassy officials added the consulate stopped paying because Russia hiked the rates tenfold while using space for its diplomatic offices in Poland for free.
The ruling comes as the crisis in Ukraine has left Russia locked in its worst standoff with the West since the Cold War.
Fresh tension was injected into ties when Poland's Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna angered Moscow by crediting Ukrainian soldiers, not the Red Army, with liberating Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary ceremonies last week.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski then appeared to make amends by paying tribute to Soviet troops as liberators.
He has since created another stir by floating the idea of Poland hosting May 8 ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Observers believe that given the heightened East-West tension over the Ukraine crisis, Komorowski could be planning the event as a way of giving Western leaders an "out" from attending high profile military celebrations scheduled on May 9 in Moscow.