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Russia expels 23 U.K. diplomats in dispute over former spy's poisoning

March 17, 2018 9:44 AM
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Russia expels 23 U.K. diplomats in dispute over former spy's poisoning

U.K. ambassador summoned for meeting at Russian foreign ministry

Russia's government is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatening further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that it is also ordering the closure of the British Council in Russia and ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

It ordered the diplomats to leave within a week, and summoned Britain's ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, for a meeting Saturday at the ministry in Moscow.

The statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more "unfriendly" moves toward Russia.

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.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped over and unresponsive on a park bench on March 4 shortly after they left an Italian restaurant in Salisbury. (Misha Japaridze/AP; Yulia Skripal/Facebook via AP)

They remain in critical condition in hospital after being found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, 140 kilometres southwest of London, on March 4.

May had been demanding that Moscow explain how a nerve agent developed during the Soviet Union era was used to make the pair ill before her government announced it would expel 23 Russian diplomats and sever high-level bilateral contacts with Moscow.

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