Moscow to Expel 23 UK Diplomats, Revokes Agreement on Opening Consulate Gen.

Nerve agent row: Russia expels 23 British diplomats amid increasing tensions

Russian Federation on Saturday announced it is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was giving the 23 British diplomats one week to leave the country.

Moscow announced the measures on the eve of a presidential election which incumbent Vladimir Putin should comfortably win.

Russian Federation insists it had no motive to target Skripal with what Britain says was a highly-potent nerve agent called Novichok, in the first such attack in Europe since World War II. Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain will consider next steps in the coming days alongside its allies.

Russian Federation has threatened to escalate its response should Britain respond with further sanctions, according to the ministry statement.

The Russian ministry also said it was ordering the British Council in Russia to cease operation and that a British consulate in St. Petersburg would not reopen.

Following the Salisbury incident, the British government has also pledged to re-examine 14 deaths on United Kingdom soil following a report that they could have been carried out by Moscow or the Russian mafia. "We can be reassured by the strong support we have received from our friends and allies around the world", May said at the Conservative Party's spring forum in London.

"Russia's response doesn't change the facts of the matter - the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable." it said in a statement.

The announcement followed on the heels of Britain's order this week for 23 Russian diplomats to leave the United Kingdom because Russia was not cooperating in the case of the Skripals, both found March 4 poisoned by a nerve agent that British officials say was developed in Russia.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has summoned the British ambassador to Russian Federation for talks in a heightening dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

Russia's response was more robust than expected.

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.

The British Council said in a statement it is "profoundly disappointed" at its pending closure. "And I don't rule out that something else could follow", first deputy head of the Russian Senate's foreign affairs committee Vladimir Dzhabarov told Interfax news agency.

British police said there is 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 suspected interference in the Donald Trump's election as USA president.

Britain's action was sequel to the use of a Russian-developed nerve agent to poison Skripal and daughter.

She also repeated accusations made by Britain to the United Nations that the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 was a "flagrant breach of global law and the Chemical Weapons Convention". Both are in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

Russian investigators said on Friday they had opened a criminal investigation into the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and offered to cooperate with British authorities.

Russian Federation offered some cooperation to British authorities after the 2006 London murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko too.

Britain said the assistance in that case was not enough, and in 2016, a judge-led inquiry concluded that Putin had probably approved Litvinenko's murder, something Moscow denies.



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