Russian Federation expels 23 United Kingdom diplomats in retaliatory move in spy row


Russia´s expulsion of 23 British diplomats "doesn´t change the facts of the matter" of the poisoning of a former double agent in an English city, Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday.

"We anticipated a response of this kind and we will consider our next steps in the coming days, alongside our allies and partners", Mrs May said at a Conservative Party forum in London yesterday.

Relations between Moscow and London deteriorated in early March after former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious in a shopping center in Salisbury.

"Twenty three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and to be expelled within a week", a foreign ministry statement said.

Russia hits back with tit-for-tat expulsion after United Kingdom dismisses Russian diplomats over poisoning of Russian former spy.

Moscow also said it would halt the activities of the British Council in Russian Federation in a tough series of retaliatory measures announced after it summoned British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

According to Petrov, Russia's sharp reaction to the measures taken by the United Kingdom government are meant for the domestic audience and are supposed to boost the Russian president's image as a leader who "demonstrates Russia's greatness" in the world arena.

Britain's foreign ministry said it had anticipated Russia's response and its priority now looking after its staff in Russian Federation and assisting those that will return home.

The case has roiled relations between the two countries, with Britain announcing that in addition to other measures, no ministers or members of the royal family would attend the World Cup hosted by Russian Federation this summer. After several days of investigation, British authorities determined that they were poisoned with a nerve agent known as Novichok, which is believed to be unique to Russian Federation.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied that Russia or the Soviet Union had ever developed Novichok, the class of nerve agent Britain says was used to poison the Skripals.

The Russians also ordered the closing of the British Council, a cultural and educational organization, in Russia, and revoked permission for the British consulate general in St. Petersburg.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday once again blamed Russian Federation for its alleged role in a nerve agent attack against a former spy in England, warning that any state-sponsored attack on British soil would be met with consequences. "It is Russian Federation that is in flagrant breach of worldwide law and the Chemical Weapons Convention".

Russia's response was more robust than expected.

The expulsions came a day after British police launched a murder investigation after an autopsy revealed that a Russian exile who was critical of Putin was strangled in his home.

On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was overwhelmingly likely that Mr Putin himself had made the decision to use a military-grade nerve toxin to strike down former spy Skripal. Putin's spokesman denounced the claim.