Russian Federation expels 23 United Kingdom diplomats in retaliatory move in spy row

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was giving the 23 British diplomats one week to leave the country. He was later sent to the United Kingdom in exchange for captured Russian spies.

Moscow also said it would halt the activities of the British Council in Russian Federation in a tough series of retaliatory measures announced after it summoned British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

The British Council said it was profoundly disappointed by Russia's decision and remained committed to developing long-term people-to-people links with Russian Federation despite the closure.

"Russia's response doesn't change the facts of the matter - the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable", Mrs May said.

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"We remain committed to the development of long-term people-to-people links with Russian Federation as we do in over 100 other countries".

Britain's Foreign Ministry said it had anticipated Russia's response and its priority now is looking after its staff in Russian Federation and assisting those who will return home.

Russia has demanded consular access to Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen, and complained that Britain has not responded to that request.

The UK's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has said London would submit a sample of the Novichok nerve agent used in the former spy's poisoning to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a United Nations body.

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Russian news agencies cited politicians in Russia's upper house of parliament as welcoming the move to close the British Council, alleging it had been used as a cover by British spies. British officials said the lethal nerve agent, Novichok, had been created in the Soviet Union. "It is Russian Federation that is in flagrant breach of global law and the Chemical Weapons Convention".

"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.

Russia's government is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

It ordered the diplomats to leave within a week.

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Skripal had taken his daughter, who was on a visit from Moscow, out for lunch in Salisbury before they both collapsed on a bench.

The representatives of Russia's Foreign Ministry added that the British Council is not anymore functioning in Russian Federation.

Russia's response was more robust than expected.

At the Conservative Party Spring Forum, she said her government had anticipated Russia's decision earlier in the day to order the expulsion of 23 British diplomats as a tit-for-tat reaction to a similar move announced over Russia's alleged hand in the attack with a weaponised nerve agent on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, Efe reported.

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On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said statements by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson linking Putin to the attack were "shocking and unforgivable".

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