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In tit-for-tat move Russia expels 23 British diplomats

In tit-for-tat move Russia expels 23 British diplomats”

Russian Federation 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.

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

The ministry said it was also closing the British consulate in Saint Petersburg and withdrawing the right of the British Council, a body that promotes British culture and language, to operate in Russian Federation.

And it also said it would halt the activities of the British Council in Russian Federation in a tough series of retaliatory measures announced after summoning British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

The tit-for-tat expulsion follows after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in London on March 4.

The Russian foreign ministry said the British diplomatic representatives would be forced to leave the country in days.

Specialists in protective suits secure the forensic tent on March 8, 2018, that had been blown over by the wind and is covering the bench where Sergei Skripal was found with his daughter after an apparent nerve agent attack, in Salisbury, England.

"We will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves", the ambassador told reporters.

About 400 witnesses have already come forward in what is "extremely challenging and complex investigation", Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of London's Metropolitan Police said.

Moscow has said the diplomats must leave Russian Federation within one week.

Читайте также: Russian Federation summons British envoy amid bitter row over ex-double agent poisoning

Putin, a former KGB spy who is poised to win a fourth term in an election on Sunday, has so far only said publicly that Britain should get to the bottom of what has happened.

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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.

British police are not linking his case with the Salisbury attack. Officers also are trawling through some 4,000 hours of CCTV footage, he said.

On Friday, police said they were treating the March 12 death of exiled businessman Nikolai Glushkov as murder after a post-mortem found he died from "compression to the neck". There's no evidence at this stage that his death and the attack on the Skripals are linked, it said.

In what seems like a odd coincidence, police now say Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian former businessman, was murdered last week at his home just outside London.

Russia's Investigative Committee said it had launched its own criminal proceedings in connection with the "attempted murder of a Russian citizen, Yulia Skripal" in Salisbury and the "murder" of Glushkov in London.

The midnight deadline then passed without comment from Russia, prompting the United Kingdom expulsion of the Russian diplomats.

Sergey Skripal worked as a spy for Britain's MI6 agency while serving in Russian military intelligence in the late 1990s.

CNN's Matthew Chance reported from Moscow and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported from London.

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