United Kingdom not planning to toughen visa issuance for Russians - embassy in Moscow

United Kingdom not planning to toughen visa issuance for Russians - embassy in Moscow”

In the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats from London since the Cold War, Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday gave 23 Russians who she said were spies working under diplomatic cover a week to leave London.

France, which on Wednesday had said it wanted proof of Russian involvement before deciding whether to take action against Russia, appeared to change its position on Thursday, saying it agreed with the assessment of its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Britain.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday, in which she declared measures against Russian Federation over the poisoning of former colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate Sergey Skripal.

Russia warned on Thursday that it would retaliate very soon for Britain's expulsion of 23 diplomats over a nerve toxin attack on a Russian former double agent.

Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a Novichok-type military-grade nerve agent designed in the Soviet Union, she said. The father and daughter remain in critical condition in a hospital in Salisbury, southwestern England.

Britain accused Russian Federation of involvement in the nerve agent poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal at a time when London's ties with European partners have been badly strained by Brexit.

"It is an affront to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons", May said.

"If we don't take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used", she said. "And it is an affront to the rules-based system on which we and our worldwide partners depend".

She accused Britain of refusing to cooperate with Moscow in the investigation of the incident.

"We insist that Russian Federation has no connection to what happened in Great Britain", Peskov told a conference call.

Nerve agent Novichock

But the Kremlin, which has steadfastly denied the accusations, ignored the deadline and said Britain had not given it enough time to respond to May's request.

"In connection with the introduction by Britain of unfriendly steps towards Russian Federation, we plan to introduce reciprocal steps, without doubt ..."

"We hope reason will prevail and other countries will think hard how serious the evidence against Russian Federation is", he said.

In London, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson ratcheted up the rhetoric against Russian Federation, accusing it of glorying in the attack on Skripal, which he described as a way of scaring anyone who stood up to President Vladimir Putin.

"It is hard to say what may be happening in neighbouring countries", he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Russian Federation has claimed that the nerve agent could have come from another former Soviet country, pointing to Moscow's foe, Ukraine.

Mr Johnson said he had been heartened by strong expressions of support from the United States and other allies - although it remains unclear whether there will be a coordinated global response to the Novichok attack. May's office says President Donald Trump told the prime minister the U.S. was "with the United Kingdom all the way".

On Wednesday it also called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the investigation.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that the attack was "most likely" inspired by Moscow and announced he would put the issue on the agenda at an EU leaders' summit next week.

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