British business is braced for a possible increase in costs and delays in dealing with Russian officials following the expulsion of four Russian diplomats yesterday. Financial Times

Despite claims from Moscow that the diplomatic dispute will have no effect on commercial life, British business operating in Russia fear they could face extra red tape over everything from tax returns to residence permits and are especially worried about visa applications.

Short-term business visitors, who often travel on tourist visas that are easier to secure quickly than business visas, could be affected.

However, powerful lobbies in both countries hope to limit the commercial fallout of the dispute. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the UK has become the favourite destination for Russians for work and play.

An estimated 250,000 Russians live in Britain.