Russian Federation expels 23 British diplomats in spy attack row

Nerve agent row: Russia expels 23 British diplomats amid increasing tensions

Russia to expel 23 British diplomats: foreign ministry

Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain will consider further retaliatory steps in the coming days alongside its allies.

Russian Federation also said it was closing Britain's consulate in the city of Saint Petersburg, citing a "disparity" in the number of diplomatic missions held by the two countries.

Britain blames Russian Federation for the nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were found unconscious March 4 in the English city of Salisbury and remain in critical condition.

"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.

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova on Saturday said the nerve agent had never been developed in the Soviet Union or Russian Federation and said it was most likely from somewhere in western Europe.

Britain's National Security Council will meet early this week to consider the next steps, May said.

The Russian response was announced on the eve of a presidential election which is expected to hand Vladimir Putin a fourth term in the Kremlin, but which comes as the country appears increasingly isolated. Putin has cast his country as a fortress besieged by hostile Western powers with him as its defender, and state media is likely to portray the anti-British move in that context.

It said this was a response to Britain's "provocative actions" and "baseless accusations over the incident in Salisbury on March 4".

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

Nerve agent row: Russia expels 23 British diplomats amid increasing tensions
Spy Poisoning: Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats

The announcement came after the British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow Saturday morning.

The Russian Foreign Ministry ordered the 23 diplomats to leave within a week.

Blaming Russia for the attack, the United Kingdom said it would dismiss 23 Russian envoys, the single biggest expulsion in more than 30 years.

The closure of the British Council's Moscow office will sever cultural ties, while that of the consulate-general in St Petersburg will end Britain's diplomatic presence in Russia's second-largest city.

The Russians also ordered the closing of the British Council, a cultural and educational organization, in Russia, and revoked permission for the British consulate general in St. Petersburg.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that "23 diplomatic personnel from the British Embassy in Moscow have been declared persona non grata" and have one week to leave.

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. After several days of investigation, British authorities determined that they were poisoned with a nerve agent known as Novichok, which is believed to be unique to Russian Federation.

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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The 109 service can not operate through Kells in Co Meath due to the bad weather and is being redirected to use the motorway. However, DART services are only operating between Lansdowne Road and Howth / Malahide due to flooding on the track.

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