Moscow to Expel 23 UK Diplomats, Revokes Agreement on Opening Consulate Gen.

Erika Holt
March 17, 2018

The response comes after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in an escalating row over whether the country was involvement in the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury two weeks ago.

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

The announcement came on the heels of Britain's order this week for 23 Russian diplomats to leave the United Kingdom because Russia was not cooperating in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both found poisoned on March 4 by a nerve agent that British officials say was developed in Russia. It also said in a statement that it is ordering the closure of the British Council, a government-backed organization for cultural and scientific co-operation, and that it is ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

The Russian foreign ministry said it was taking the measures in response to what it called the U.K.'s "provocative actions and unfounded accusations" over the poisoning case.

The Russian statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more "unfriendly" moves toward Russia.

The British government said they were poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent of a type developed by Russian Federation.

"Since the legal status of the British Council in Russian Federation has not been determined its operation is ceased", the statement read.

Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday delivered her response to the expulsion of 23 British diplomats by the Russian government.

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Johnson said Prime Minister Theresa May would talk to French President Emmanuel Macron again on Thursday about the attack. Peskov reiterated Russian denials of involvement in the attack that has left both Skripals in critical condition.

The source of the nerve agent, which Britain says is Soviet-made novichok, is unclear, as is the way it was administered.

"I just had a meeting in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs". British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking a global coalition of countries to punish Moscow.

Police outside the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury near to where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was found critically ill by exposure to an unknown substance.

Speaking on Russia-24 television, Zakharova said Britain's angry reaction is connected to the war in Syria.

The British National Security Council will meet early next week to consider the next steps after Saturday's expulsion announcement. "It is Russian Federation that is in flagrant breach of global law and the Chemical Weapons Convention", the spokesperson added.

Russian news agencies cited politicians in Russia's upper house of parliament as welcoming the move to close the British Council, alleging it had been used as a cover by British spies.

Britain's foreign secretary accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the poisoning of the Skripals. It has cast Britain as a post-colonial power unsettled by its impending exit from the European Union, and even suggested London fabricated the attack to whip up anti-Russian hysteria.

London's Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command has said there is no suggestion that Glushkov's death is connected to the poisoning attack, but that they are investigating because "of associations Mr Glushkov is believed to have had".

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