The British and Russian ambassadors to Iran have angered the country by recreating a World War Two image of Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, when Iran was under Allied occupation.
The Russian embassy posted a photo of the two diplomats recalling a famous picture of the wartime leaders in 1943.
Iran’s foreign minister described the image as “extremely inappropriate”.
The Russians say no harm was intended, and they only meant to pay tribute to the Allied fight against Nazi Germany.
The ambassadors, Simon Shercliff and Levan Dzhagaryan, were pictured sitting on chairs on the steps of the Russian embassy in Tehran.
It echoed a photo taken of allied leaders Stalin, Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt when they met for the first time at the Tehran conference in 1943. At the time, Iran was occupied by Russian and British forces.
The conference is remembered as the moment the Allied leaders agreed on the second front – the invasion of Normandy – to defeat Nazi Germany.
The image seemed to recall a happier era in relations between London and Moscow – but that was not how many saw it in Tehran.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif led a chorus of criticism, calling the picture “extremely inappropriate”.
“Need I remind all that August 2021 is neither August 1941 nor December 1943,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The Iranian people have shown – including during the JCPOA [nuclear] talks that their destiny can NEVER be subject to decisions in foreign embassies or by foreign powers.”
A tweet by the Russian embassy posting the picture received thousands of angry replies.
“The ambassadors are insulting all Iranians,” said Tehran English literature professor Seyed Marandi.
“The Tehran conference was a violation of Iranian sovereignty and symbolic of the historic crimes committed by the US, Russia and the UK against Iranians.”
The Russian embassy addressed the “ambiguous reaction” to the image, saying it “does not have an anti-Iranian context”.
“The only meaning that this photo has is to pay tribute to the joint efforts of the allied states against Nazism during the second world war,” it said on Twitter.
“We are not going to offend the feelings of the friendly Iranian people.”
Mr Shercliff did not tweet the photograph himself, but retweeted the Russian comment.
The row comes at a high-point in tensions between the UK and Iran.
Earlier this month, the UK blamed Iran for an “unlawful attack” on an oil tanker off Oman which killed a Briton and a Romanian. Iran hit back, calling the claim “contradictory, false and provocative”.