Russian Federation to expel 23 British diplomats: foreign ministry

Fredrick Soto
March 19, 2018

Sergei Skripal moved to Salisbury after being jailed for passing Russian state secrets to British intelligence while working for the Russian government in the 1990s.

Russian Federation said Saturday it would expel 23 British diplomats and close a British consulate following London's "provocative" measures over the poisoning of a double agent that has triggered an escalating war of words.

Moscow has consistently denied responsibility for the attack and has said it considers Britain's subsequent response to be a "flagrant provocation".

The poisoning of an ex-Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, on United Kingdom soil has officially turned into an worldwide scandal.

Putin, a former KGB spy who is poised to win a fourth term in an election on Sunday, has so far only said publicly that Britain should get to the bottom of what has happened.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Russia will take retaliatory measures against the United Kingdom.

After the British government blamed a Russian agent for adding a lethal dose of the radioactive element polonium-210 to tea sipped by Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian Security Service officer, Britain expelled four Russian diplomats in 2007, and Russia responded in kind.

May's office said in a statement that she discussed the investigation with France's Macron on Thursday morning. In an unusual joint move Wednesday, the U.S., France and Germany also pointed the finger at Russian Federation.

Two days later Lavrov's deputy Sergei Ryabkov says Moscow never had any programmes to develop the Novichok nerve agent.

"That's making a lot of people anxious, more worried than it was before", said Russian exile and former cell phone magnate Yevgeny Chichvarkin.

An 83-year-old Russian whistleblower who helped develop Novichok said in an interview published Friday that a few countries in the world have laboratories powerful enough to develop the nerve agent thanks to a formula he published in 2008.

"SHOCKING AND UNFORGIVABLE " In a sign of just how tense the relationship has become, British and Russian ministers used openly insulting language while the Russian ambassador said Britain was trying to divert attention from the difficulties it was having managing its exit from the European Union. They have been in a critical condition in hospital ever since.

May severed high-level contacts with Moscow and vowed actions against Russian dirty money and "hostile state activity".

Russia's ambassador to Britain said Friday the 23 expulsions will reduce staff at the embassy by about 40 percent.

Meanwhile, Russia is vowing retaliation for the USA sanctions, and Britain is now calling it "overwhelmingly likely" that Putin ordered the attack, although the Kremlin keeps insisting that it had no reason to poison their ex-spy.

Mr Lavrov said: "I guess he wants to go down in history with some bombastic statements ..." The pair had come into contact with a nerve agent that experts have reportedly ruled "beyond a reasonable doubt" came from Russian Federation.

Mr. Corbyn's position has caused anger among Labour MPs, with a group of them, led by John Woodcock, defying their leader and tabling a motion offering full support to the Tory government's position.

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