Saturday, 17 August, 2019

Russia Retaliates Against UK

REUTERS  Gonzalo Fuentes REUTERS Gonzalo Fuentes
Patty Aguilar | 18 March, 2018, 17:55

Moscow announced earlier Saturday it would expel 23 British diplomats and close a British consulate following London's "provocative" measures over the March 4 incident in which Sergei Skripal and his daughter were exposed to a rare nerve agent in the English town of Salisbury.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, told Moscow-based Interfax news agency that the British Council was used as a cover organization for British intelligence officers.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was "highly likely" the Kremlin was behind the attack, and both countries have expelled diplomats in an ongoing tit for tat. "We can be reassured by the strong support we have received from our friends and allies around the world", May said.

The UK government says they were poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia called Novichok - the Russian government denies any involvement in the attack.

The Russian response was announced on the eve of a presidential election which is expected to hand Vladimir Putin a fourth term in the Kremlin, but which comes as the country appears increasingly isolated.

Johnson said the attack on Skripal and his daughter with a military-grade nerve toxin was most likely ordered by Putin himself.

Relations between London and Moscow have crashed to a post-Cold War low over the Salisbury attack, the first known offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two.

The announcement came after the British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow Saturday morning.

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Britain's government said the move was expected, and that it doesn't change their conviction that Russian Federation was behind the poisoning of ex-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. It also said in a statement that it is ordering the closure of the British Council, a government-backed organization for cultural and scientific cooperation, and that it is ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

Britain's National Security Council is due to meet early next week to consider London's next steps.

It warned London it stood ready to take further measures in the event of more "unfriendly steps".

Writing in the Sun on Sunday two weeks after the March 4 incident, Mr Johnson said: "These futile measures will only punish ordinary Russians by depriving them of harmless opportunities to learn English and apply for United Kingdom visas". The Skripals remain in critical condition.

European Union leaders are to discuss the incident at a Brussels summit next week and it is also on the agenda for talks on Monday between Johnson, his European Union counterparts and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. She said Britain is taking a tough line because of frustration at recent advances of Russian-backed Syrian government forces against Western-backed rebels.

The BBC on Saturday said the police had made contact with Russians living in Britain to discuss their safety.

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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