In tit-for-tat move Russian Federation expels 23 United Kingdom diplomats

There is no clear proof that Russia is linked to an attack involving a nerve agent against a former Russian double agent in England, the Kremlin spokesman said on Friday, commenting on U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion that there was.

"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.

It warned London it stood ready to take further measures in the event of more "unfriendly steps".

The order came days after Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain expelled the same number of Russian diplomats and called off high-level contacts between the two governments.

They remain in critical condition in hospital.

Russian Federation announced the expulsion of 23 United Kingdom diplomats on Saturday and informed them they would have a week to leave the country. British officials say military-grade nerve agent was used.

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, to a meeting on Saturday morning in central Moscow at its Stalin-era headquarters during which he was informed of the retaliatory measures.

He was arrested and convicted of treason by Russia, but was pardoned and exchanged in a spy swap in 2010, after which he lived the U.K. The case has drawn obvious parallels with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a dissident former Russian intelligence officer who was killed with a radioactive poison in London in 2006.

"In light of Russia's previous behaviour, we anticipated a response of this kind and the National Security Council will meet early next week to consider next steps".

Shortly after the attack, Russia offered their collaboration to investigate the case and requested the United Kingdom government access to the compound used in the attack so that Russian experts could test it in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which both parties have adhered.

Russia's response was more robust than expected.

When asked if the Prime Minister was a liar, Yakovenko told Channel 4: "Definitely we would like to see the statements of the Prime Minister supported by facts".

On Friday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the nerve agent attack. "She is using a codename which instantaneously evokes memories of Russia, evokes associations with something Russian, everything that must draw our country in the spotlight immediately", she said. And naturally Johnson demonstrated his outrage at Russia's politics.

Russian investigators said they had opened a criminal investigation into the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and offered to cooperate with British authorities.

  • Rogelio Becker