Russian Federation to expel 23 United Kingdom diplomats in spy row

Prime Minister Theresa May rallies party with warning to Russia

Russian Federation to expel 23 United Kingdom diplomats in spy row

Russian Federation will expel 23 United Kingdom diplomats, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Saturday, as a row escalates with London over the nerve-agent attack on a former double agent on British soil.

Moscow responded on Saturday by expelling 23 British diplomats from Moscow in a tit-for-tat measure.

The statement also said Russian Federation is ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

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.

Britain this week ordered 23 Russian diplomats to leave the country, saying that Russia was not cooperating in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both found March 4 poisoned by a nerve agent that British officials say was developed in Russia.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson did not shake hands with Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko during a recent meeting with him in accordance with the "British protocol".

On March 12 British Prime Minister Theresa May says it is "highly likely that Russian Federation was responsible for the act", saying Moscow could be directly to blame or may have "lost control" of the nerve agent.

It added, "The British side is warned that, in the case of further actions of an unfriendly character toward Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take other answering measures".

"We will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies and our values against an attack of this sort, which is an attack not only on the United Kingdom, but upon the global rules-based system on which all countries, including Russian Federation, depend for their safety and security", Bristow said.

The Council has been ordered to cease all operations in Russian Federation, with the Foreign Ministry citing its "unregulated status".

Responding the Russia's decision to expel the diplomats, Britain said it had "anticipated" the move.

Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain "will consider our next steps in the coming days alongside our allies and partners" in a dispute with Russian Federation over the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy on British soil.

This episode has revived memory of what happened with Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident who died poisoned with radioactive Polonius in an attack in United Kingdom in 2006 that London also charged to Moscow.

But she said Britain had "no disagreement with the Russian people". It is Russian Federation that is in flagrant breach of global law and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Skripals are reported to be in critical condition, but British authorities have provided no further information about their status.

Top EU diplomats were expected to discuss next steps at a meeting Monday, with some calling for a boycott of the upcoming World Cup in Russian Federation.

Litvinenko was poisoned in London in 2006 with the radioactive substance polonium-210, in the most notorious of a rash of suspicious deaths of high-profile Russian exiles in Britain. British police said Friday that he died from compression to the neck and opened a murder investigation.

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.

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