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Russian Diplomats Owe $5M in Unpaid Congestion Bills

The Russian Embassy in London owes £3.2 million (nearly $5 million) in traffic fines, Britain's cash-strapped government said Monday, naming and shaming diplomats who have ducked congestion charges and parking fees.

Staff at the Russian diplomatic mission driving on the often overcrowded streets of central London have racked up the fines for not paying the £8 ($12) congestion charge payable for using the busiest roads at the busiest times.

Since the charge was introduced in 2003, the running total of unpaid fines for all diplomatic missions has hit £36 million.

British authorities say the fee is a charge for a service that everyone must pay, but Moscow says it is a tax and diplomats are exempt.

Russia's Ambassador to Britain, Yury Fedotov, said last December that Russia would not pay as a “question of principle” because the charge violated the Vienna Convention, the London Evening Standard reported.

U.S. diplomats also have not paid, making them the biggest debtors with £3.8 million in unpaid charges, while the Japanese Embassy has run up a bill of just over £2.7 million.

Kazakhstan's London mission tops the list for unpaid parking fines and other traffic violations, with 1,399 outstanding fines worth £147,880, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

The FCO wrote to all foreign diplomatic missions in March to ask for any outstanding money owed for illegal parking and minor traffic offenses, not counting the congestion charge fines. Only a tiny fraction of that bill was paid.

(Reuters, MT)

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