Russia expels 23 British diplomats, shuts Council, Consulate

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Russian Federation will expel 23 British diplomats in a tit-for-tat reaction to Theresa May's response to the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

"23 diplomatic officers of British Embassy in Moscow are declared personae non-gratae and are expelled from the country within a week".

The UK's Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has stated it to be "overwhelmingly likely" that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the nerve agent attack on the Russian Spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33. In 2008, the British Council's regional offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg were closed, leaving only the head office in Moscow open.

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, The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

She said Britain is taking a tough line because of frustration at recent advances of Russian-backed Syrian government forces against Western-backed rebels.

A British policeman was also poisoned when he went to help them and remains in a serious but stable condition. It is Russian Federation that blatantly violates global law and the convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons, "the British foreign policy department stated".

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But she said Britain had "no disagreement with the Russian people".

The organization has been the target of diplomatic retaliation before, most notably when the United Kingdom expelled Russian diplomats after the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko under conditions very similar to that of the Skripal attack in Salisbury earlier this month.

"We will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies and our values against an attack of this sort, which is an attack not only on the United Kingdom, but upon the global rules-based system on which all countries, including Russian Federation, depend for their safety and security", Bristow told reporters after being informed of the expulsions.

And it said it had halted the activities of the British Council, Britain's worldwide organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.

Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement on Saturday that the country's National Security Council would meet early next week to consider its next steps.

Russia's response does not change the fact that Moscow was in "flagrant breach of global law" and the Chemical Weapons Convention, she said.

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Britain, the United States, Germany and France have jointly called on Russia to explain the attack, while US President Donald Trump has said it looks as if the Russians were behind it.

They said there was "no plausible alternative explanation" for the use of the Soviet-designed nerve agent other than Russian responsibility.

Counter-terrorism police have renewed their appeal for witnesses who may have seen Mr Skripal's burgundy BMW vehicle in Salisbury on 4 March.

About 400 witnesses have already come forward in what is "extremely challenging and complex investigation", Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of London's Metropolitan Police said.

Russian Federation has complained that Britain has failed to provide any evidence of its involvement in the Salisbury attack and has said it is shocked and bemused by the allegations. There's no evidence at this stage that his death and the attack on the Skripals are linked, it said.

A post-mortem examination found the 68-year-old died from "compression to the neck". After several days of investigation, British authorities determined that they were poisoned with a nerve agent known as Novichok, which is believed to be unique to Russian Federation.

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