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QUENTIN LETTS on a very odd day at the Russian embassy 

Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko has watched too many Bond movies. The rehearsed chuckle. The forced attempts at humour.

Film cliche has long given us the sinister villain with a punctilious regard for manners. ‘Sit down, Mr Bond – you will partake of my hospitality, perhaps a glass of the ’49 Puligny-Montrachet, before you meet your untimely death.’

Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko has watched too many Bond movies. The rehearsed chuckle. The forced attempts at humour. In an increasingly odd press conference at his residence yesterday, Moscow’s man placed a premium on genteel behaviour.

Please, he was not going to discuss Putin being a serial murderer. ‘Not in this house. Respect to the ambassador, please. There should be some kind of good manners.’

It was the same when he was asked about London’s condemnation of the Kremlin’s suspected culpability for the Salisbury poisonings.

With the wounded disappointment of an assassin sending back a bottle of cyanide to because it is corked, he said: ‘We believe the top diplomats should be very cautious with the words. There are certain political manners in this world.’

Envenom Russian dissidents in Salisbury and murder them in London hotels, by all means. Have business rivals’ windpipes thumbed, invade sovereign countries, wipe out thousands of Syrians, but please, Meester Bond, unfold your linen napkin before we cut into the filet mignon. Ambassador Yakovenko, who is keenly loathed by MPs across the Commons (except Jeremy Corbyn), summoned journalists to his Bram Stoker-style residence. It is disconcertingly close to Kensington Palace. 

You dread to think what could happen if one of Prince Harry’s friends accidentally sets off a stink bomb at the stag party.Reporters were subjected to airport-style security checks.

Two menials with white gloves inspected visitors’ bags. Shouldn’t it have been the other way round? A photograph of a youthful V. Putin (before facelifts) glared forth from a frame on a table.

Mr Yakovenko, who has polluted the Court of St James for seven years, took questions. First journalist selected, surprise surprise, was a blonde in scorching red dress, red shoes (kitten heels) and traffic-light red lipstick.

Mr Yakovenko, who has polluted the Court of St James for seven years, took questions. First journalist selected, surprise surprise, was a blonde in scorching red dress, red shoes (kitten heels) and traffic-light red lipstick.

Then into the Great Hall, with a baronial fireplace and World Cup 2018 Russia football on a plinth. A nearby screen promoted the ambassador’s Twitter feed which accused Britain of trying to ‘wreck relations with Russia’.

Yes, that dastard Boris Johnson. Bet he planted the Salisbury poison on purpose and in person, just to cause a row.

Embassy staff had laid on a jug of water, should any of the guests be thirsty. Oddly enough, there were no takers.

Mr Yakovenko, who has polluted the Court of St James for seven years, took questions. First journalist selected, surprise surprise, was a blonde in scorching red dress, red shoes (kitten heels) and traffic-light red lipstick.

Roger Moore’s eyebrows would have done a few press-ups at the sight of her. She announced she was from some Russian TV station and claimed she had once been personally insulted by Boris Johnson. Knowing our Boris, love, you got off lightly. The ambassador, himself not quite so glamorous, seemed familiar with this broad.

She invited him to comment on suggestions that Putin’s regime was comparable to Adolf Hitler’s. Off went Mr Yakovenko into a soundbite: ‘Nobody has the right to insult the Russian people.’ Bump them off in the streets of England but don’t insult them. Remember your manners.

The World Cup would be a showpiece of Russian sophistication, he said, wheezing with mirth. ‘We build absolutely fascinating infrastructure. New facilities. Fascinating hotels.’

He was outraged the Foreign Office had not shown him police evidence for suspicions that Russia was up to its oxters in the Salisbury outrage. He wanted to know where the Skripals were being treated. I bet he does.

He was outraged the Foreign Office had not shown him police evidence for suspicions that Russia was up to its oxters in the Salisbury outrage. He wanted to know where the Skripals were being treated. I bet he does.

He was outraged the Foreign Office had not shown him police evidence for suspicions that Russia was up to its oxters in the Salisbury outrage. He wanted to know where the Skripals were being treated. I bet he does. And why weren’t those Skripals dead yet? Eh? Russian poison experts said anyone exposed to that nerve agent ‘should’ die immediately. It was almost the ‘should’ of a man who felt swizzed.

The longer the event lasted – with Russian reporters addressing him as ‘Your Excellency’ – the more he betrayed signs of cockiness, chuckling as he belittled questions from the likes of Channel 4’s Jon Snow and the BBC’s firmly unimpressed James Robbins.

There are times to be thoroughly proud of being British. Watching this B-grade goon yesterday was one of them.



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