Russian Federation spy poisoning: 23 United Kingdom diplomats expelled from Moscow

British ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow on March 13.     Yuri Kochetkov  EPA

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.

"A total of 23 diplomatic employees of the British Embassy in Moscow are declared personae non gratae and must leave within a week", said the statement, warning that Moscow retained the right to respond if Britain continues to take unfriendly steps against Russian Federation.

It also said it would close the British Council in Russian Federation, which promotes cultural ties between the nations, and the British Consulate in St Petersburg.

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, to a meeting on Saturday morning in central Moscow at its headquarters during which he was informed of the retaliatory measures.

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

Just days after United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May said her country would expel 23 Russian diplomats over the nerve agent attack of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter on British soil, Russia is retaliating by expelling Britain's diplomats.

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

The UK-Russian relations deteriorated in early March after former Russian intelligence officer Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious in a shopping center in Salisbury.

Sergei Skripal was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006 for spying for Britain, according to Russian state media accounts of the closed hearing.


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

Counter-terrorism police have also renewed their appeal for sightings of Mr Skripal's burgundy BMW 320D saloon vehicle, registration HD09 WAO, in Salisbury on the morning of March 4.

The Foreign Office says "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". The British diplomats have a week to leave. The British Council is a cultural institute with artistic, language and educational programs. The organization has been operating in Russian Federation ever since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Experts say Russian Federation is the only-known maker of Novichok. As he left the meeting in Moscow, he told reporters that the United Kingdom would "always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies and our values against an attack of this sort". The Skripals remain in critical condition.

British Prime Minister Theresa May this week expelled 23 Russian diplomats and severed high-level contacts over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Relations between London and Moscow have crashed to a post-Cold War low over the attack, the first known offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two.

The British ambassador had been expecting this call for three days.

The Russian response was announced on the eve of a presidential election which is expected to hand Vladimir Putin a fourth term in the Kremlin, but which comes as the country appears increasingly isolated.

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