Russian Federation expels 23 British diplomats in spy poisoning crisis


"Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in Russian Federation, its activity is halted", the foreign ministry said.

MOSCOW-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.

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.

British Prime Minister Theresa May this week expelled 23 Russian diplomats and severed high-level contacts over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal an ex-Russian agent convicted of spying for Britain, and his daughter Yulia. 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. 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.

"Twenty three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and to be expelled within a week", the foreign ministry said in a statement after summoning the British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

The British National Security Council will meet early next week to consider the next steps after Saturday's expulsion announcement.

Russian news agencies cited politicians in Russia's upper house of parliament as welcoming the move to close the British Council, alleging it had been used as a cover by British spies.

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The country's foreign ministry also warned Britain that "if further unfriendly actions are taken towards Russia, the Russian side retains the right to take other answering measures".

Russian Federation has denied the U.K.'s allegations, accusing Britain of using the incident in a campaign to smear Moscow.

Britain's foreign secretary accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the poisoning of the Skripals. The U.K. has accused Russian Federation of bearing responsibility for the attack, which British officials say involved a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed secretly by Russian Federation.

Moscow has said it is open to cooperation with London, but has refused Britain's demands to explain how Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military, was used against the Skripals. They remain in critical condition in hospital.

Russian Federation also suspects foul play in Glushkov's death and opened its own inquiry Friday.

Malcolm Turnbull spoke to British Prime Minister Theresa May over the weekend and said the United Kingdom made a compelling case the nerve agent was Russian, however the Russian ambassador to Australia argued the United Kingdom had more of a motive to poison the pair.

As the fallout from the poisoning unravels in the global arena, British police are continuing their investigation into the poisoning of Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia.