Russia expels 23 British diplomats

They must leave within a week; Moscow decides to close British Council and cancels permission to open general consulate

FE Online Desk | Published: March 17, 2018 15:49:19 | Updated: March 18, 2018 12:07:53

British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow leaves the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Saturday. -Reuters Photo

Russia has decided to expel 23 British diplomats in retaliation for the United Kingdom’s decision to kick out 23 Russians diplomat from Britain.

Expelled British diplomats must leave Moscow within a week.

Reuters said Russian foreign ministry took the decision on Saturday after a meeting with Britain’s ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow.

Moscow has also decided to close the British Council in Russia and to withdraw permission for Britain to open a general consulate in St Petersburg, Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Earlier, Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Britain’s ambassador to the country for a meeting on Saturday.

Relations between the two countries crash to a post-Cold War low over an attack involving a military-grade nerve agent on English soil.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday Moscow had already decided on retaliatory measures, which she said Britain would be informed of in the near future.

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.

Theresa May gave the 23 Russians - who she said were spies working under diplomatic cover at the embassy in London - a week to leave.

Moscow has denied any involvement in the attempted murder of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

It has cast Britain as a post-colonial power unsettled by its impending exit from the European Union, and even suggested London fabricated the attack to whip up anti-Russian hysteria.

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