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Russia Expels 23 UK Diplomats as Fallout Over Nerve Agent Attack Grows

Russia Expels 23 UK Diplomats as Fallout Over Nerve Agent Attack GrowsRussia Expels 23 UK Diplomats as Fallout Over Nerve Agent Attack Grows

Russia’s Foreign Ministry ordered the expulsion of 23 British diplomats from Russia on Saturday in a tit-for-tat response to Britain’s decision to expel Russian envoys in connection with the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter on British soil.

The ministry also declared it was closing the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg and the British Council in Russia, in a step beyond the measures taken by Britain. The British Council is a cultural institute with artistic, language and educational programs, CNN reported.

The UK diplomats have a week to leave, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, adding that its actions came “in response to the provocative actions of the British side and groundless accusations” against Russia over the Salisbury attack.

“The British side is warned that in case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures,” the ministry said.

Russian Senator Igor Morozov, a veteran of the Russian Service of External Intelligence, claimed that the British Council was shut down because UK intelligence operated “under the roof” of the organization, state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The British Council said it was “profoundly disappointed” by Moscow’s decision to order its closure.

“It is our view that when political or diplomatic relations become difficult, cultural relations and educational opportunities are vital to maintain on-going dialogue between people and institutions,” it said in a statement.

“We remain committed to the development of long-term people-to-people links with Russia as we do in over 100 other countries.”

  Retaliation Comes Swiftly

Relations between the two nations have deteriorated rapidly since the March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, in the English city of Salisbury. The pair remain critically ill in the hospital.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday gave the 23 Russian diplomats—whom she described as undeclared intelligence officers—a week to leave, as she accused the Russian state of being “culpable” for the attack in Salisbury.

Russia, which denies any involvement in the incident, condemned May’s decision as unacceptable and vowed a swift response.

Its retaliatory move came a day before Russians go to the polls for a presidential election in which President Vladimir Putin is expected to win a second consecutive term.

The UK Foreign Office said its priority was looking after its staff in Russia and helping those who will return to Britain.

 

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