Russia's Foreign Ministry retaliates against UK
Russia on Saturday announced it is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain, Global News reports. 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.
It ordered the diplomats to leave within a week.The announcement followed on the heels of Britain’s order this week for 23 Russian diplomats to leave the U.K. because Russia was not cooperating in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both found March 4 poisoned by a nerve agent that British officials say was developed in Russia. The Skripals remain in critical condition.
The Russian statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more “unfriendly” moves toward Russia. British Ambassador Laurie Bristow was called to the Foreign Ministry Saturday morning to be informed of the moves.
“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 international rules-based system on which all countries, including Russia, depend for their safety and security,” Bristow told reporters after being informed of the expulsions.
“This crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack in the United Kingdom, the attempted murder of two people, using a chemical weapon developed in Russia and not declared by Russia at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as Russia was and is obliged to do under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” he added.
A Russian lawmaker warned Britain against escalating the crisis.
Responding to Russia's announcement, the UK Foreign Office said in a statement it had “anticipated a response of this kind” and the National Security Council would meet early next week “to consider next steps”, Independent reports. It insisted there was “no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable” but said it was not in the UK's national interest “to break off all dialogue between our countries”.