Russian Federation expels British 'spies' after Salisbury poisoning attack

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May delivers her speech at the Conservative Party’s Spring Forum

Russia expelled 23 British diplomats on Saturday in a carefully calibrated retaliatory move against London, which has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating a nerve toxin attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in southern England.

The latest move by the Russian foreign ministry is in retaliation for the expulsion of the same number of Russian diplomats in Britain in the past few days.

Russian Federation has also withdrawn permission for Britain to open a general consulate in St Petersburg and says it will be closing the British Council in Russian Federation.

On Wednesday, May called the attack a "barbaric act" and announced retaliatory measures including: the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats she called "undeclared intelligence officers"; uninviting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit the United Kingdom; freezing certain Russian government assets in the United Kingdom; and suspending "high-level" diplomatic contacts.

The UK ordered Russian diplomats to leave the country over the incident on 4 March which the UK government has blamed on Russia - but which Russia denies.

Britain has made the seriousness of the attempted murder of a former spy with nerve agent clear to USA officials, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday, and will work with whoever is in the administration to take a tough line on Russian Federation.

Britain's ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to Russia's foreign ministry on Saturday.

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".

Moscow also chose to close the British Council in Russian Federation and to withdraw permission for Britain to open a general consulate in St Petersburg, the ministry said in a statement.

It said it was responding to "provocative actions" and "unproven accusations" by Britain.

Experts say Russian Federation is the only-known maker of Novichok.

Mr Lavrov had earlier said that Moscow had "stopped paying attention" to the poisoning claims, and called UK's refusal to work with Russian Federation a "violation of global agreements".

Britain, the United States, Germany and France have jointly called on Russia to explain the attack, while US President Donald Trump has said it looks as if the Russians were behind it.

Britain also stated that Russian Federation was highly likely to be involved in this incident, as the state did not give any explanation concerning this case to the British side within the terms set by London.

- July 2007: Britain expelled four Russian diplomats and hit Moscow with visa restrictions after Moscow refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the main suspect in the murder of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

The 29-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance expresses solidarity with Britain over what it calls the first offensive use of a nerve agent on the military alliance's territory since World War II.

The Skripals are reported to be in critical condition, but British authorities have provided no further information about their status. Putin's spokesman denounced the claim. Russia's Investigative Committee opened a criminal case Friday into Yulia Skripal's attempted murder.

UK's Prime Minister Theresa May said on Saturday that Russia's dismissal of the British representatives "doesn't change the facts of the matter" of the poisoning.

On Monday the European Union meets to discuss the deepening crisis between London and Moscow, many member states in the EU calling for a heightening of sanctions against Russian Federation.

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