Sunday, 22 July, 2018

Russian Federation says 23 British diplomats must leave within a week

Anna Jefferson | 18 March, 2018, 17:10

Russia's European Union ambassador has suggested a United Kingdom research laboratory could be the source of the nerve agent used in the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

The ministry also revoked its agreement on opening and operation of the UK Consulate General in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, according to the statement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday, March 17, that "23 diplomatic personnel from the British Embassy in Moscow have been declared persona non grata" and have one week to leave.

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

The current story began with the assassination attempt of a Russian spy in the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and his daughter who were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, UK. The pair remain in the hospital and are critically ill.

While UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK would allow the global OPCW experts in The Hague to review the British analysis of the sample, the UK refuses to enact the mechanism in the OPCW that calls for a thorough investigation, Lavrov said, adding that "if you appeal to this organization, you must comply with the provisions of the Convention that stipulate filing a request to us, because we are suspected of being a country of origin and even the country which had used this poisoning agent, and, providing us with samples of this agent, so we, together with OPCW experts, can analyze it". Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has responded by saying that Moscow will also expel British diplomats.

However, he went on: "It's important we don't allow a miasma of suspicion about all Russians in London and indeed all rich Russians in London [to develop]".

The British government dismissed the ambassador's suggestion as "nonsense".

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"It is our view that when political or diplomatic relations become hard, cultural relations and educational opportunities are vital to maintain on-going dialogue between people and institutions", it said. The tensions threaten to overshadow Putin's expected re-election today for another six-year presidential term.

Western powers see the nerve-agent attack as the latest sign of alleged Russian meddling overseas. Western leaders have strongly backed Britain's response. Perhaps he wanted it that way: He was head of Russia's spy agency, the FSB, at the time that Skripal allegedly supplied information to Britain, and had publicly vowed revenge.

She told a forum of her Conservative Party that Britain had "anticipated a response of this kind" and that it "will consider our next steps in the coming days, alongside our allies and partners".

An adequate worldwide response to Putin would push back against his ventures on all fronts: Syria, where the United Nations has found Russia complicit in war crimes; Ukraine, where Russian-backed forces continue to seek military advantage; cyberspace, where Russian hackers and bots remain ubiquitous.

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".

Britain said the assistance in that case was not enough, and in 2016, a judge-led inquiry concluded that Putin had probably approved Litvinenko's murder, something Moscow denies.

Nataliya Vasilyeva and Angele Charlton, The Associated Press •.

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