As any modern parent knows, the best way to grab the attention of a petulant child is to turn off the internet.

Ecuador announced yesterday that it had done just that after its increasingly unwelcome house guest Julian Assange called a British foreign minister a “snake” in response to being called “a miserable little worm”.

Mr Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy for nearly six years after failing at every level of the British justice system to oppose an extradition request from Sweden for questioning on allegations of rape and sexual assault by two women. That investigation was discontinued after one of the women’s claims expired under a statute of limitations. He remains wanted for breach of bail

by failing to present himself for extradition after losing his case at the Supreme Court in 2012.

Sir Alan Duncan, the minister for Europe and the Americas, said in a question-and-answer session on foreign affairs last Tuesday that it was of “great regret” that Mr Assange had still not left the embassy. “It’s about time that this miserable little worm walked out of the embassy and gave himself up to British justice,” he added.

Mr Assange, whose last tweet was a link to Mr Duncan’s comments, wrote: “Better a ‘worm’, a healthy creature that invigorates the soil, than a snake.”

Along with his internet access, supporters claimed that he was being denied visitors. Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek former finance minister, and Brian Eno, the musician, said in a statement that they had heard “with great concern” about the lost internet access as well as a ban on visitors.

They blamed America and Spain, following the Wikileaks exposures and Mr Assange’s support for Catalonian independence. “Only extraordinary pressure from the US and the Spanish governments can explain why Ecuador’s authorities should have taken such appalling steps in isolating Julian,” they said. They added that Ecuador had only recently granted Mr Assange citizenship, saying it must have been “leaned on mercilessly” to stop attempting a diplomatic route to safety.

The Ecuador government said that it had “suspended the systems that allow Julian Assange to communicate”. The officials added: “The measure was adopted due to Assange not complying with a written promise which he made in late 2017, by which he was obliged not to send messages which entailed interference in relation to other states.”