Undaunted by the odd polonium poisoning, murder plot or diplomatic face-off, Russia's wealthy elite are hungry for the good life in London and there is no sign of their appetite waning.

Property agents and businesses serving London's Russian-speaking community, now estimated to number several hundred thousand, have kept a wary eye on the worsening of relations between the two countries.

But so far they say it is business as usual -- despite an Anglo-Russian ping-pong game of diplomatic expulsions this week in which the score now stands at 4-4.

We have more and more clients from Russia now, said Inessa Falina, head of the Russian department at Hamptons International Estate Agents.

Most of my clients are looking for properties from 2 million pounds ($4.1 million) and up. For example, tomorrow I'm showing a house that costs 18 million pounds and yes, it's a Russian oligarch.

London's appeal to rich Russians is manifold: ease of doing business, access to international capital markets, world-class culture and entertainment and the opportunity to educate one's children in England's elite private schools.

Tycoon Roman Abramovich liked it so much he bought a London residence in Knightsbridge, a country estate and one of England's top soccer clubs, Chelsea -- turning him instantly into the face of New Russian capitalism in Britain.


Security-conscious Russians are drawn here too -- curiously, perhaps, since the polonium poisoning of emigre Alexander Litvinenko in London last year, the source of the current British dispute with Moscow. Former oligarch Boris Berezovsky said on Wednesday that he too was the target of a murder plot in London which police foiled several weeks ago.

Even if my clients sometimes come to see properties with bodyguards, they know it's a safe city for them, Falina said.

Elana Melikyants, senior marketing manager at Russian London Ltd which provides expats with translation, house-hunting, education and other services, said business was good despite the accident in diplomatic relations.

It is a very strong demand, and I think it will be developed even more in the next 10, 20 years.

About 10 percent of clients are in the super-rich category and their requirements include personnel solutions such as nannies, cleaners and babysitters, she said.

To help them find their feet, the company publishes an online guide packed with useful information on London including the right places to smoke cigars and where to buy an English umbrella, plus listings of shops, beauty salons and Chelsea soccer fixtures.

The Litvinenko and Berezovsky affairs have been a talking point but not a major concern, said Andrei Tolstoy-Miloslavsky of property consultants Cluttons, who helps find homes in London for Russian buyers.

Everybody's following the news. There may be the odd joke or something. It's not really top of the agenda. Most people do not relate to these people at all. They're far removed from the reality of ordinary Russians, he said.

The distant relative of War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy said he did not see the current chill in relations affecting the property market, unless it started to have a severe effect on freedom of travel between Russia and Britain.

I can't see it escalating into something bigger than this, it's not in the interests of either country, he said.

Unless we do something incredibly stupid, I can't see how the situation could deteriorate really. At least, I hope it's not going to.