Russia deplores UK’s expulsion of 23 diplomats

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin
President of Russia Vladimir Putin

Russia has deplored Britain’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats following the poisoning of a former double agent.

Russia’s embassy in London said on Wednesday that the action is hostile and unjustified.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level contacts including for the World Cup, saying her government found Moscow “culpable” of a nerve agent attack on a former spy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman had on Wednesday rejected what he called Britain’s “unfounded accusations” and “ultimatums” over the poisoning of a former double agent in Britain.

“Moscow does not accept unfounded accusations that are not based on evidence and a language of ultimatums,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“We are hoping that common sense will prevail,” he said, in the Kremlin’s first public response to British accusations that Russia could be behind the attempted murder of former double agent Sergei Skripal.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May’s deadline to explain how Skripal was poisoned in Britain with a highly toxic nerve agent invented by Russia.

“Moscow has nothing to do with the accident in Britain,” Peskov said, reiterating that Moscow was open to cooperate on the investigation.

He declined to comment on calls in the West to possibly invoke NATO’s principle of common defence, saying Moscow hopes that other countries would see there was no evidence to blame Russia for the poisoning attack.

“As far as a threat of isolation is concerned, we are hoping that common sense will prevail and other countries will at least think whether there is any proof or not and just how justified the rebukes against Moscow are,” Peskov said.

Russia has slammed Theresa May for pointing the finger at it over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal

Lavrov on Wednesday criticised May, who had said Russia was “highly likely” to be behind the attack. He accused her of vagueness in her accusations.

“It is probably not very respectable and not very serious,” he said, accusing the British government of making “political scenes.”

He likened the British government to the notorious general prosecutor in Stalin’s purge trials in the 1930s, Andrei Vyshinsky.

May said she would be pushing for a “robust international response” when the UN Security Council meets later Wednesday in New York to discuss the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement and its London embassy warned that May’s response was “totally unacceptable and shortsighted”.

May told parliament that Russia had failed to respond to her demand for an explanation on how a Soviet-designed chemical, Novichok, was used in the English city of Salisbury.

Sergei Skripal: Britain announces tough measures against Russia

Theresa May: accuses Russia of using nerve toxin against ex-spy Skripal
“There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter,” she said.

“This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.”

In measures drawn up at a meeting of her national security council earlier Wednesday, May announced that 23 Russian diplomats believed to be undeclared intelligence officers must leave Britain in a week.

She suspended all planned high-level contacts, which includes revoking an invitation for Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit but said she did not want to break off relations entirely.

May also confirmed that neither members of the royal family or ministers would attend the football World Cup in Russia later this year.

Theresa May: accuses Russia of using nerve toxin against ex-spy Skripal

And she outlined fresh measures against people travelling to or living in Britain who were responsible for violations of human rights or planned “hostile activities”.

NATO allies, including the United States, have expressed their support for Britain following the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.

Along with the UN Security Council meeting in New York, EU Council President Donald Tusk indicated that the issue would be on the agenda of next week’s summit of the bloc’s leaders in Brussels.


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