Russia has slammed Theresa May for pointing the finger at it over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal. (Photo: AFP/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

LONDON - Agencies
Britain to expel 23 Russian diplomats, suspend high-level bilateral contact over spy poisoning

Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent in southern England, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday (Mar 14). 

"Under the Vienna Convention, the United Kingdom will now expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers," May told Parliament. 

"They have just one week to leave."

The prime minister said the biggest expulsions from London in 30 years would degrade Russian intelligence capabilities in Britain for years to come. The UK will also suspend high-level bilateral contact with Russia and revoke an invitation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit.

"We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents," May added. 


May said she had come to the conclusion that Russia was culpable for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the genteel southern English city of Salisbury on Mar 4. 

They have been in a critical condition in hospital ever since.

Russia has denied any involvement, and May told parliament Moscow had provided no credible explanation for the attack.

"There is no alternative conclusion, other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury,” May said.

“This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.”


May added that British royals and government ministers will not attend the World Cup in Russia. 

"There will be no attendance by ministers - or indeed members of the royal family - at this summer's World Cup in Russia," May told lawmakers.

Russia said Britain should expect retaliation for its actions.

May gave Moscow an ultimatum on Monday to explain whether Skripal's attempted murder was a state-sponsored attack, or whether it had "lost control" of the nerve agent.

The next day Lavrov said Russia rejected Britain's demand to provide an explanation, saying that Britain should have sent Moscow an official request about the substance used on its soil. 

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