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A file photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia denies involvement and had warned for days that it would respond to the UK’s expulsion of 40% of its diplomats in London. Photo: Bloomberg
A file photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia denies involvement and had warned for days that it would respond to the UK’s expulsion of 40% of its diplomats in London. Photo: Bloomberg

Russia expels 23 British diplomats in retaliation for spy-poison case

Russia orders the expulsion of 23 British diplomats in retaliation for Theresa May's ouster of 23 Kremlin envoys over the nerve-agent poisoning near London of a former spy, his daughter

Moscow: Russia ordered the expulsion of 23 British diplomats in retaliation for UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s ouster of 23 Kremlin envoys over the nerve-agent poisoning near London of a former spy and his daughter.

The British consulate in St. Petersburg was also ordered to close and the British Council must stop its work in Russia, the Russian foreign ministry said in a website statement Saturday. UK Ambassador Laurie Bristow was summoned to the ministry and told the actions are “in response to the provocative actions of the British side and the unsubstantiated accusations" against Russia, the ministry said.

The diplomats were given one week to leave Russia. “If further actions of an unfriendly nature are taken against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take other retaliatory measures," the ministry said.

The action came after May ordered out the largest number of Russian diplomats from London in 30 years and broke off all high-level contacts on Wednesday. She accused Moscow of an “unlawful use of force" involving weapons-grade nerve agent that poisoned former Kremlin double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury on 4 March. The pair remain in critical condition.

The first use of a nerve agent on European soil since World War II is a direct challenge to the Western alliance, days before elections are almost certain to give Vladimir Putin a fourth term as president.

US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron later backed the UK in a joint statement with May and said there’s “no plausible alternative explanation" to Russian responsibility.

Russia denies involvement and had warned for days that it would respond to the UK’s expulsion of 40% of its diplomats in London. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov denouncing the British accusations as “absolutely rude, unsubstantiated and baseless." Bloomberg

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