Russian EU Ambassador shifting the blame in nerve agent saga


Britain has evidence that Russia has been manufacturing and stockpiling the nerve agent used in an attack on a former Russian double agent on British soil, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Sunday.

"Twenty three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and to be expelled within a week", the foreign ministry said in a statement after summoning the British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

British Prime Minister Theresa May this week expelled 23 Russian diplomats and severed high-level contacts over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal an ex-Russian agent convicted of spying for Britain, and his daughter Yulia.

Johnson said Britain's National Security Council will meet later this week to decide "what further measures, if any" may be taken, and that the government may decide to target Russian wealth in Britain.

"Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in Russian Federation, its activity is halted", the foreign ministry said.

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Putin was speaking after winning a new term in a presidential election.

Russian Federation also revoked permission for the United Kingdom to open a general consulate in St. Petersburg, and the British Council, a cultural and educational organization, has been ordered to stop its activities in the country.

Officials from the world's chemical weapons watchdog will arrive in Britain on Monday to investigate the samples used in the attack and the results should be known in about two weeks, Britain's foreign ministry said.

The British Council said in a statement it is "profoundly disappointed" at its pending closure.

Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer who betrayed numerous Russian agents to Britain.

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Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain announced the following week that the poison used in the attack was Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by Soviet scientists for use on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the Rossiya 24 TV channel on Saturday that the most likely source of the Novichok nerve toxin was Britain itself or the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden or the United States. The assertion could not be immediately verified.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Salisbury incident is "highly likely" to have been a state execution, and Russian president Vladimir Putin "is responsible" for the attack whether directly or through negligence.

In his first comments about the poisoning, the Russian leader said Moscow was ready to cooperate with Britain in the investigation.

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