Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats, Escalating Row Over Ex-Spy's Poisoning

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Russia expelled 23 British diplomats on Saturday in a carefully calibrated retaliatory move against London, which has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating a nerve toxin attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in southern England.

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.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said in a statement that it is ordering the closure of the British Council, a government organization for cultural and scientific cooperation, and that it is ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

"We anticipated a response of this kind".

The source of the nerve agent, which Britain says is Soviet-made Novichok, is unclear, as is the way it was administered.

UN Security Council had an emergency session on March 14, when Great Britain confirmed that Russian Federation used Novichok agent to poison Skripal and his daughter.

They were ordered to leave over the incident on 4 March which the United Kingdom government has blamed on Russian Federation - but which Russian Federation denies.

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She tells British lawmakers that the military-grade nerve agent used was identified as belonging to a group of nerve agents known as Novichok and of a type developed by Russian Federation.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had told reporters that it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Putin ordered the attack. Putin's spokesman denounced the claim.

Moscow announced the measures on the eve of a presidential election which incumbent Vladimir Putin should comfortably win.

In January 2016, after a British probe found that Moscow was responsible for the Litvinenko affair, the British government summoned Russia's ambassador, and froze the assets of Lugovoi and a second suspect, Dmitry Kovtun.

Mr Bristow, after leaving the meeting, said that the United Kingdom had no quarrel with the Russian people and would "always do what is necessary to defend ourselves".

It added, "The British side is warned that, in the case of further actions of an unfriendly character toward Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take other answering measures".

Britain has expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning, and Russia expelled British diplomats in response.

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Detectives are appealing for witnesses who may have seen Sergei Skripal's burgundy BMW on the morning of March 4.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu says 250 counterterrorism officers are working "around the clock" on the case.

The Skripals are reported to be in critical condition, but British authorities have provided no further information about their status. British police said on Friday that he died from compression to the neck and opened a murder investigation.

However, a police statement emphasized that "at this stage, there is nothing to suggest any link to the attempted murders in Salisbury, nor any evidence that he [Glushkov] was poisoned".

However, they have begun to contact a number of Russian exiles to discuss their safety.

Russian Federation also suspects foul play in Glushkov's death and opened its own inquiry Friday.

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