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

Theresa May leaves No 10

Theresa May leaves No 10

Russian Federation said Saturday it would expel 23 British diplomats and close a British consulate following London's "provocative" measures over the poisoning of a double agent that has triggered an escalating war of words.

The tit-for-tat expulsion follows after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in London on March 4.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury, after they were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent. He was later sent to the United Kingdom in exchange for captured Russian spies.

Russia's foreign ministry summoned Britain's ambassador to the country, Laurie Bristow, for a meeting on Saturday, Russian news agencies reported, citing an unidentified ministry source.

After the first known offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two, Britain has pointed the finger at President Vladimir Putin and on Thursday May gave the 23 Russians - who she said were spies working under diplomatic cover at the embassy in London - a week to leave.

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.

"There is a reason for choosing Novichok". However, Russia has vigorously denied involvement in the attack.

The attack showed the Kremlin was "clearly willing to act without restraint" and fit a pattern of "reckless behaviour" by Putin, Johnson said.

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