Russian Federation expels 23 British diplomats in spy poisoning row

Theresa May leaves No 10

A British policeman was also poisoned when he went to help them and remains in a serious but stable condition. May told the House of Commons. "We have not raised any tensions in our relations, it was the decision by the British side without evidence".

Boris Johnson has said it is "overwhelmingly likely" that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, personally took the decision to use a nerve agent to attempt to kill the former double agent Sergei Skripal on United Kingdom soil.

On Thursday, Ryabkov claimed Russian Federation had never developed anything like the alleged nerve agent, identified by the British as Novichok.

The US treasury department said the use of a military-grade nerve agent in the Salisbury incident "further demonstrates the reckless and irresponsible conduct of its (Russia's) government".

In a rapid escalation of a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the U.K.'s problem was not with the Russian people but with the Russian leader.

The war of words between Moscow and London continued Friday, with Lavrov lashing back at British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson for saying Russian Federation "should go away and shut up".

The Kremlin, Moscow, Jan. 6, 2017.

The Russian foreign minister on Thursday said Moscow would respond by expelling British diplomats "soon".

Escalating a crisis in relations, Russian Federation said it was also shutting down the activities of the British Council, which fosters cultural links between the two countries, and Britain's consulate-general in St. Petersburg. The U.S., France and Germany have already lined up against Russian Federation on this attack, and top European Union diplomats may discuss next steps at a meeting Monday.

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The war of words continued despite there still being no official word on the form and scale of the Russian response, which may now wait for next week as Moscow seeks to avoid drawing attention away from its impending election.

In a separate action, the Trump administration issued sanctions on a number of Russian entities for a wide range of behavior, including attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the audience during a rally marking the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, on March 14, 2018. He has already been in power 18 years and could stay until 2024.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the British Army's chemical and biological weapons regiment, called that Russian claim "complete hogwash". His daughter, who lives in Moscow, was visiting him when the pair fell ill.

Ms. May's comments came after the deadline, set by Britain for an "explanation" from Russian Federation as to why novichok - a military grade nerve agent developed by Russian Federation - had come to be used in the Salisbury poisoning, passed. None have shown any symptoms. In a statement late Friday, May's office said the OPCW had agreed to travel to Britain to collect a sample of the nerve agent.

Vil Mirzayanov, who now lives in New Jersey, said that if the substance is Novichok, as Britain claims, it's "100 per cent" clear it came from Russian Federation.

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

Russians living in London, speaking in global media, say they are increasingly concerned by the close monitoring of the Kremlin.

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