Russian Federation expels 23 British diplomats

Russian actions shine a light on the political weakness of Britain but not much else

Russian actions shine a light on the political weakness of Britain but not much else

Three days after the United Kingdom said it was expelling 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent on United Kingdom soil, Russia says it's responding in kind, by kicking out 23 United Kingdom diplomats now in Moscow.

The ministry also revoked its approval of the opening and operation of the British Consulate General in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, saying that "the British Council's activities are being ceased due to its unregulated status in the Russian Federation".

"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 worldwide rules-based system on which all countries, including Russian Federation, depend for their safety and security", Bristow told reporters.

Following the Salisbury incident, the British government has also pledged to re-examine 14 deaths on United Kingdom soil following a report that they could have been carried out by Moscow or the Russian mafia.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped over and unresponsive on a park bench on March 4 shortly after they left an Italian restaurant in Salisbury. The organization has been operating in Russian Federation ever since the fall of the Soviet Union.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday that her government will consider its next steps against Moscow after consulting with Britain's allies over the next few days.

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.

"Russia's response doesn't change the facts of the matter", said the Foreign Office.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Saturday reiterated Russian denials of involvement in the poisoning attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

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It comes after NHS England said Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the police officer exposed to the Novichok agent in Salisbury, is no longer in a critical condition.

The Russian statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more "unfriendly" moves toward Russia.

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.

Britain blames Russian Federation for the attack, which has left the Skripals in critical condition and a police officer seriously ill in a Salisbury hospital.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday gave the 23 Russian diplomats - whom she described as undeclared intelligence officers - a week to leave, as she accused the Russian state of being "culpable" for the attack in Salisbury.

UK-Russia relations have been fractious ever since the assassination of another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, in 2006.

The British ambassador had been expecting this call for three days.

British Ambassador Laurie Bristow is expected at the Russian Foreign Ministry late Saturday morning.

On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was overwhelmingly likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself had made the decision to use a military-grade nerve toxin to strike down Mr Skripal. Putin's spokesman denounced the claim.

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