26 April 2012
A spokesman for incoming President Vladimir Putin has hit out at a Guardian article criticizing red tape in Russia, claiming Russians applying for British visas face even more paperwork.
The story, The hell of Russian bureaucracy, by the Guardian's Moscow correspondent Miriam Elder, recounts the form-filling and paperwork she had to endure while trying to get her clothes dry cleaned.
"I am sorry to hear about Miriam Elder's experience at the dry cleaners, in which she lost her receipt and so had an hour of her time "stolen" in providing the necessary personal details to retrieve her woollies," Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press spokesman, wrote in the paper's letter section on Thursday.
"But I am also amazed that this anecdote can be passed off as any sort of insight into the state of Russia today," he added.
Peskov said cutting red tape was a "high priority" for the Russian government and that "substantial progress" had been made in recent years, but added that Britain had "room for improvement on this front too."
"Let me remind British readers of the thousands of hours that are "stolen" from Russian citizens when they complete the UK's visa application forms, which are a whopping 10 pages. The time, money, effort and inconvenience that Russians face in obtaining UK visas put Ms Elder's ordeal into perspective," he said.
In November last year, the British Charge d'Affaires in Moscow, Dennis Keefe, vowed to ease conditions for visa applications for Russians entering the UK.
Moscow has urged the EU to scrap visa requirements for Russians altogether, and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev described visas last year as a "hangover from the past."
Elder's article, published on Tuesday, also describes a controversy over students having to pay fees twice at Moscow's main university due to a bank collapse, and general observations about her life in the city.
"Rather in shock that of all the stories about corruption, journalist murders, human rights abuses and electoral fraud, Putin's spokesman decided the one he HAD to respond to was one about ... drycleaning," Elder said in a posting on her Facebook page on Thursday.