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Russia expels 23 UK diplomats as spy poisoning row worsens

By News Express on 17/03/2018

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•Russian President Vladimir Putin
•Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia will expel 23 British diplomats in retaliation against the UK’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, Russia’s foreign ministry said.

The tit-for-tat expulsion follows after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in London on March 4.

Blaming Russia for the attack, the UK said it would dismiss 23 Russian envoys, the single biggest expulsion in more than 30 years.

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.

“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,” May told her Conservative Party’s spring forum.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury, after they were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

A former double agent, Skripal betrayed dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence before his arrest in Moscow in 2004. He was later sent to the UK in exchange for captured Russian spies.

Russia decided the British diplomats must leave Moscow within a week, its foreign ministry said on Saturday, after a meeting with Britain’s ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow.

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

Novichok nerve agent

The UK’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has said London would submit a sample of the Novichok nerve agent used in the former spy’s poisoning to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a UN body.

Speaking to the BBC news on Thursday, Johnson said the rare Soviet-made chemical weapon used against Skripal and his daughter in the town of Salisbury was specifically chosen to send a message to political dissenters challenging Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

“There is a reason for choosing Novichok. In its blatant Russian-ness, the nerve agent sends a signal to all who may be thinking of dissent in the intensifying repression of Putin’s Russia,” he said.

“The message is clear: We will find you, we will catch you, we will kill you – and though we will deny it with lip-curling scorn, the world will know beyond doubt that Russia did it.”

The attack showed the Kremlin was “clearly willing to act without restraint” and fit a pattern of “reckless behavior” by Putin, Johnson said. (Al Jazeera)

 

Source News Express

Posted 17/03/2018 9:00:15 PM

 

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