In tit-for-tat move Russia expels 23 UK diplomats

Russia Expels 23 UK Diplomats In Retaliatory Move

Russia Expels 23 UK Diplomats In Retaliatory Move

On Wednesday British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a series of measures against Russia over its failure to respond to the British government's request to explain how a military-grade nerve agent was used in a recent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The Russian foreign ministry said the United Kingdom staff would be expelled from Moscow within a week in response to Britain's decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats.

In 2008, Russian Federation ordered the council to close all its offices except the Moscow headquarters as part of retaliation for the UK's expulsion of diplomats over the radioactive poisoning of former security-service officer Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

The UK-Russian relations deteriorated in early March after former Russian intelligence officer Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious in a shopping center in Salisbury.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that it had expected the Russian retaliation, which includes closing the British consulate in St. Petersburg and barring cultural organization the British Council.

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The British government has confirmed the expulsion of 23 of its diplomats from Russian Federation, and says the U.K. National Security Council will meet early next week to consider the next steps in its dispute with Moscow over the poisoning of a former spy.

The UK government says they were poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russian Federation called Novichok, and PM Theresa May has said she believes Moscow is "culpable".

A United Kingdom inquiry found that two Russian agents poisoned Litvinenko at a London hotel bar in 2006 by spiking his tea with highly radioactive polonium-210, and that Putin "probably approved" Litvinenko's killing.

Russia has now denied that any program under the name Novichok ever existed, despite the evidence presented two decades ago by the Russian scientist Vil Mirzayanov, who revealed its existence after becoming concerned it violated Russia's commitments to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Russia will expel British diplomats in response to London's decision to expel 23 staff at the Russian embassy in London. The ministry said it was also closing the British consulate in Saint Petersburg and withdrawing the right of the British Council, a body that promotes British culture and language, to operate in Russian Federation.

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U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said it was the first instance of nerve agents being used in Europe since World War II.

The announcement came after the British ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Moscow.

"If further actions of an unfriendly nature are taken against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take other retaliatory measures", the ministry said. Putin's spokesman denounced the claim. Peskov reiterated Russian denials of involvement in the attack that has left both Skripals in critical condition.

Russian Federation has complained that Britain failed to provide any evidence of its involvement in the Salisbury attack and said it is shocked and bemused by the allegations. "Russian Federation did neither, therefore we announced certain steps".

Russian Federation has said is open to cooperation with Britain, but has refused Britain's demands to explain how Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military, was used against the Skripals.

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The action came despite China warning that the Taiwan Travel Act would severely damage relations between Washington and Beijing. Observers say the new law may affect US-China cooperation in dealing with North Korea's missile and nuclear development.

The move comes in response to Britain's decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also says it expects action soon in response to the British investigation.

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