UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the poison - Whisper Eye

UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the poison

The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy in Salisbury, the PM says.

Theresa May said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”.

She also revoked an invitation to Russia’s foreign minister, and said the Royal Family would not attend the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year.

Russia denies attempted murder and says it will respond appropriately.

Its foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow would take “fitting… symmetrical measures that are completely appropriate for the situation”.

In a live show on state TV, she said the UK has no idea about professionalism or diplomacy, and were “fully-fledged liars”.

The mass expulsion is the largest since 31 were ordered out in 1985 after double agent Oleg Gordievsky defected.

Former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, 33, remain critically ill in hospital after being found slumped on a bench on 4 March.

Det Sgt Nick Bailey fell ill while responding to the incident, and is in a serious but stable condition, but is thought to be improving.

Moscow refused to meet Mrs May’s midnight deadline to co-operate in the case, prompting Mrs May to announce a series of measures intended to send a “clear message” to Russia.

These include:

  • Expelling 23 diplomats
  • Increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight
  • Freezing Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents
  • Ministers and the Royal Family boycotting the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year
  • Suspending all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the UK and Russia

Mrs May told MPs that Russia had provided “no explanation” as to how the nerve agent came to be used in the UK, describing Moscow’s response as one of “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”.

The use of a Russian-made nerve agent on UK soil amounted to the “unlawful use of force”, she said.

The PM, who was earlier briefed by senior intelligence chiefs in Downing Street, added there was “no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable” for the attack.

She said it was “tragic” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “chosen to act in this way”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was jeered by Conservative MPs as he asked Mrs May how she had responded to Russia’s request for a sample of the nerve agent so it could run its own tests.

He condemned the Salisbury incident as a “dreadful, appalling act” and called for multilateral action in response, saying it was a matter of “huge regret” that the UK’s diplomatic network had been cut by 25% in the last five years.

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