Russian Spy Poisoning: Britain Expels 23 Diplomats

Britain announced Wednesday it will expel almost two dozen Russian diplomats, sever high-level bilateral contacts with Moscow and take both open and covert action against Kremlin meddling after the poisoning of a former spy.

According to BBC, some Labor MPs have signed a draft early day motion saying they “unequivocally” accept that Russia was to blame for the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Sixteen MPs seem to have signed it already.

PM Theresa May is to consider new laws to combat spying, look at sanctions as part of a sweeping response to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Theresa May has told parliament after the attempted murder of Skripal, reports The Guardian.

In a statement to MPs after the expiry of a midnight deadline to Russia to explain how one of its nerve agents was used in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the prime minister told parliament the expulsions were the biggest such move for 30 years.

The UK would also cut off all top-level ties with Russia, including revoking an invitation to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to visit the UK, and would not send ministers or royals to the football World Cup this summer, May said.

The statement followed an announcement by the Foreign Office that the UK had called for an urgent meeting of the UN security council to update council members on the investigation. EU leaders will also discuss the incident at a summit next week, said the European council president, Donald Tusk.

May said Russia had treated a UK request to explain how the military-grade nerve agent novichok was used in the attack with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”, and had offered no credible explanation for it.

“Their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events,” May told MPs. She said: “There is no alternative conclusion other than the Russian state was responsible for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter.”

It was, she said, “unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”.

The Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, was called to the Foreign Office shortly before the statement to hear the measures. Afterwards he told Sky News: “I said everything what is done today by the British government is absolutely unacceptable and we consider this provocation.”

All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-U.K. relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain,” it said in a statement.

Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko said Britain’s actions were “a provocation.”

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Office has now updated its travel advice for Russia. It includes a passage saying:

Due to heightened political tensions between the UK and Russia, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment at this time. If you’re currently in Russia or due to travel in the coming weeks, you’re advised to remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publicly on political developments.

While the British Embassy in Moscow is not aware of any increased difficulties for British people travelling in Russia at this time, you should follow the security and political situation closely and keep up to date with this travel advice. You may wish to sign up for our email alerts to be notified of any updates.

Some Russia experts said the measures announced by May were unlikely to make Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government change its behavior. She didn’t expel Russia’s ambassador or announce sanctions against any individuals.

Critics of the British government have long claimed that the U.K. is reluctant to act against Russia because London’s property market and financial sector are magnets for billions in Russian money.

“There does not seem to be any real appetite so far to investigate the ill-gotten gains of the Russian elite that have been laundered through London,” said John Lough, an associate fellow in the Eurasia program at the Chatham House think-tank.

“It is not clear to me that London’s response will hit the Kremlin where it hurts.”

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