Russian far right declares war on Our Man in Moscow

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A campaign of harassment by Russian ultra-nationalists against Britain's ambassador to Moscow has taken a new twist, with two activists claiming they were assaulted on his orders.

The envoy, Anthony Brenton, 57, has been pursued for months by members of Nashi (Ours), a youth movement which supports President Vladimir Putin. They accuse him of "insulting the Russian people" after he was the only foreign representative to attend a conference of Russian opposition figures last summer, in defiance of the Kremlin's express wishes.

Nashi members have picketed Mr Brenton's residence and the embassy, harangued him in the street, banged their fists on his chauffeur-driven Jaguar and threateningly rocked his chair at a public meeting, keeping up what he has described as a campaign of relentless psychological pressure. Now two of his tormentorsclaim they were attacked in separate incidents by embassy security staff, at his behest.

Alexei Florya alleges he was beaten in the kidneys outside the offices of Royal Dutch Shell in Moscow as the ambassador looked on, while Tikhon Chumakhov claims he was punched in the face outside the ambassador's residence by a security guard. Embassy officials have categorically denied that Mr Brenton ordered any assault.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, has urged the activists to temper their campaign. But Nashi has vowed to continue.