Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats, Escalating Row Over Ex-Spy's Poisoning

Pauline Gross
March 19, 2018

Russian Federation will expel 23 United Kingdom diplomats, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Saturday, as a row escalates with London over the nerve-agent attack on a former double agent on British soil.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday, March 17, that "23 diplomatic personnel from the British Embassy in Moscow have been declared persona non grata" and have one week to leave.

It also said it would halt the activities of the British Council, the country's worldwide organisation for cultural relations, in Russian Federation.

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".

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters that it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Putin himself ordered the attack.

Britain's ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to Russia's foreign ministry on Saturday.

"The British side has been warned that if unfriendly steps are still taken in relation to Russia, Russian side reserves right to take or response measures", concludes Russian chancellery.

"We will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies and our values against an attack of this sort, which is an attack not only on the United Kingdom, but upon the worldwide rules-based system on which all countries, including Russian Federation, depend for their safety and security", Bristow said.

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"It is Russian Federation that is in flagrant breach of worldwide law and the Chemical Weapons Convention". Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had earlier accused Moscow of stockpiling the agent used in the attack.

Responding the Russia's decision to expel the diplomats, Britain said it had "anticipated" the move.

Two days later Lavrov's deputy Sergei Ryabkov says Moscow never had any programmes to develop the Novichok nerve agent. Both are in a critical but stable condition in hospital. "Now we are warning the [British] that we will respond in an adequate manner to all further steps of this nature".

Speaking on Russia-24 television, Zakharova said Britain is taking a tough line against Russia because of frustration at recent advances of Russian-backed Syrian government forces against Western-backed rebels.

While Russia has vigorously denied involvement in the attack, Western powers see it as the latest sign of alleged Russian meddling overseas.

British researchers claim that y were poisoned with a Russian-made nerve agent, so Moscow - which rejects all accusations - demands that London provide a sample of that material.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported early Saturday that British police were contacting Russian exiles to discuss their safety following the murder of businessman Nikolai Glushkov. British police said on Friday that he died from compression to the neck and opened a murder investigation.

British police said there was no apparent link between the attack on Glushkov and the poisoning of the Skripals, but both have raised alarm in the West at a time when Russian Federation is increasingly assertive on the global stage and facing investigations over alleged interference in the Donald Trump's election as US president.

On Monday the European Union meets to discuss the deepening crisis between London and Moscow, many member states in the EU calling for a heightening of sanctions against Russian Federation.

Other reports by GizPress

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