Russia is kicking out more British diplomats as the international community unites against Moscow over alleged Russian involvement in the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy and his daughter on British soil, the Russian foreign ministry revealed Saturday.
The Russian foreign ministry summoned British Ambassador Laurie Bristow Friday to inform him that the U.K. must reduce its diplomatic presence in Russia by removing “a little over 50” diplomats and consular personnel. These withdrawals are in addition to the 23 British diplomats who were expelled in retaliation after London kicked out the same number of Russian diplomats.
Russia explained that it will not allow Britain to have more diplomatic personnel in Russia than the latter has serving in the U.K.
Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer, and his daughter Yulia are in critical condition after a nerve agent attack earlier this month in Salisbury, England. The substance used in the attack was Novichok, a deadly Cold War-era chemical weapon developed by the Soviet Union. The details of the case indicate that Russia may have been behind the attack.
Russia has denied any involvement in the apparent hit on the ex-spy, but the incident brings back memories of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service officer who fled to the U.K. and became a critic of the Russian government. He was assassinated in 2006 in the U.K. with polonium, a rare radioactive isotope. While Russian denies killing Litvinenko, the evidence against the Kremlin in this particular case suggests that Moscow was behind the noticeably abnormal death.
After Britain began expelling Russian diplomats over the latest incident, nearly 30 other countries followed suit. The U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomats and shuttered the Russian consulate in Seattle. Moscow announced Thursday that it was sending 60 American diplomats home and closing the American consulate in St. Petersburg. It also expelled 59 diplomats from 23 other countries that supported the U.K. in its campaign against Russia.
The tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats and closing of consulates appears to have no immediate end in sight as Moscow remains a suspect in the nerve attack on the Skripals and tensions continue to rise.
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