UK: New Russian expulsion order 'regrettable'

The United States Consulate in St. Petersburg will be closed the Kremlin announced.—AFP  VNA

The United States Consulate in St. Petersburg will be closed the Kremlin announced.—AFP VNA

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office did not say how many British diplomats would be affected, but said Russia's response was regrettable and Moscow was in flagrant breach of worldwide law over the killing of the former spy.

The ministry warned that if the USA takes further "hostile actions" against Russian missions, Russia will respond in kind.

"We reserve the right to respond further". She declined to discuss what additional measures the Trump administration could take.

Two dozen countries, including the US and many European Union nations, and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have ordered out more than 150 Russian diplomats this week in a show of solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter that London blamed on Russia.

The 23 nations that saw expulsions on Friday were nearly exclusively members of the European Union, in retaliation for a series of expulsions of Russian diplomats from the same nations earlier in the week.

"What we are seeing here is the worsening of diplomatic relations, a tit-for-tat response", added Challands, describing the crisis as "severe". The U.K. has said the nerve agent was a so-called Novichok type of nerve agent, a type of nerve weapon developed secretly by the Soviet Union meant to be more potent and harder to detect.

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In an email Friday, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minster Chrystia Freeland says the diplomats have been declared "persona non grata" by the Russian government and efforts were underway for those affected to return to Canada.

The latter then retaliated by expelling an equal number of British diplomats besides ordering closing down of the British consulate in St Petersburg and British Council's offices located in Russian Federation.

The Russian foreign ministry also gave Britain a month to cut the number of diplomatic staff in Russia to the same number Russia has in Britain.

On Friday, embassy officials from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, The Netherlands, Croatia, Belgium, Ukraine, Sweden, Australia and the Czech Republic were seen arriving in their official cars at the Foreign Ministry building in Moscow.

The hospital where Skripal and his daughter are being treated said on Thursday that Yulia, 33, was "improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition", while 66-year-old Sergei remained in critical but stable condition. "It was a banned substance that they have used - Novichok".

Russian Federation has adamantly denied any state involvement in the incident and has even suggested that the attack could have been perpetrated by Britain as a provocation.

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Numerous ambassadors were summoned to appear at Russia's Foreign Ministry to receive the order for expulsions from the country, amid a dispute that has devastated Russia's already tense relations with the West.

The coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats from over a dozen Western countries earlier this week is a new low in the New Cold War, but some fear that the bottom has yet to be reached.

The U.K. and others have accused the Kremlin of bearing responsibility for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, using what they say was a military grade nerve agent produced by Russian Federation.

"Specialists have identified the highest concentration of the nerve agent, to date, as being on the front door of the address", Scotland Yard said in a statement.

London's Metropolitan Police said on Twitter that it was aware of the issue.

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