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May responds to Russia's expulsion of United Kingdom diplomats

18 March 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May responded defiantly to the tit-for-tat move, which followed Britain's expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and the suspension of high-level contacts earlier this week.

In January 2016, after a British probe found that Moscow was responsible for the Litvinenko affair, the British government summoned Russia's ambassador, and froze the assets of Lugovoi and a second suspect, Dmitry Kovtun. CGTN's Richard Bestic reports London. Indeed, Britain's ambassador to Moscow, Laurie Bristow, was inside the building for just 10 minutes receiving the names of those who'd be getting on a flight home.

The ministry also declared it was closing the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg and the British Council in Russian Federation, in a step beyond the measures taken by Britain.

Russian Federation said Saturday it would expel 23 British diplomats and close a British consulate following London's "provocative" measures over the poisoning of a double agent that has triggered a fierce diplomatic row.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said last Monday that it is "highly likely" that Russian Federation was behind the attack in conclusion that came after tests carried out at the Porton Down military facilities.

He said a number of scientists who claim to be responsible for creating some nerve agents "have been whisked out of Russian Federation and are now residing in the United Kingdom" but no stockpiles of chemical weapons had left the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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"We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian government".

May says the March 4 attack on Sergei Skripal is a "flagrant breach of worldwide law and the chemical weapons convention".

Vladimir Chizhov, Moscow's European Union ambassador, said Russian Federation has no chemical weapons stockpiles and was not behind the poisoning. They remain in critical condition.

Polls have opened in Russia's Far East regions for the presidential election in which Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term in the Kremlin. According to the police message, the investigators are now trying to establish the route of Skripal and his daughter Yulia on the day of poisoning.

And John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said Labour had given a "constructive critique" in response to the incident which others "had misread". "I am sure of the correctness of the course that I propose for the country", he said, according to state news agency RIA-Novosti.

Putin's re-election comes amid rising tension with the West, particularly with the United Kingdom, which last week accused Russian Federation of using a nerve agent to poison a former spy and his daughter living in England.

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In a similar move, Russia closed the British Council's regional offices in 2008 after relations nosedived over the poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

"This crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack in the United Kingdom, the attempted murder of two people, using a chemical weapon developed in Russia and not declared by Russia at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as Russia was and is obliged to do under the Chemical Weapons Convention", he added.

While the statement signals a more coordinated response from Britain's closest allies, it lacked any details about specific measures the West would take if Russian Federation failed to comply.

Britain is to target wealth linked to the Kremlin in response to the poisoning of a former spy, foreign minister Boris Johnson said Sunday ahead of a visit by worldwide chemical weapons experts.

Sunday marked four years since Putin signed a treaty that declared Crimea part of Russian Federation following its annexation from Ukraine, a move that led to the outbreak of a pro-Kremlin insurgency in the east of the ex-Soviet country, in a conflict that claimed more than 10,000 lives.

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May responds to Russia's expulsion of United Kingdom diplomats