Published: Sun, March 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Russia summons British envoy amid bitter row over ex-double agent poisoning

Russia summons British envoy amid bitter row over ex-double agent poisoning

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.

This is not the first time the British Council, an organization that promotes cultural exchange, has been caught up in retaliations.

The British Council said it was "profoundly disappointed" by Moscow's decision to order its closure.

"It is our view that when political or diplomatic relations become hard, cultural relations and educational opportunities are vital to maintain on-going dialogue between people and institutions".

"We remain committed to the development of long-term people-to-people links with Russian Federation as we do in over 100 other countries".

The decision follows Britain's decision on Wednesday to expel 23 Russian diplomats following the attack of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern city of Salisbury. The pair remain in critical condition.

Russian Federation was slow to respond to May's decision, spending Thursday and Friday promising a swift and strong response.

US President Donald Trump then apparently made a decision to throw his weight behind these accusations also, saying that "it looks like" no one other than Russian President Vladimir Putin could have been behind the attack.

"Twenty three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and to be expelled within a week", the country's foreign ministry said in a statement after summoning the British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sparked particular outrage in Moscow with his blunt comment on Thursday that "Russia should go away, it should shut up".

Russia's ambassador to Australia wants to meet with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to discuss the fallout of the attack. He said Britain must defend itself.

U.S. President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron later backed the a joint statement with May and said there's "no plausible alternative explanation" to Russian responsibility.

"Our quarrel is with Putin's Kremlin, and with his decision, and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision, to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the United Kingdom, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War", Johnson said.

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A ministry spokesman said that Britain's first priority would be in helping those who would be returning to Britain.

May said Russia's use of a chemical weapon was "an affront to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons".

However, Russia has vigorously denied involvement in the attack.

Britain's top envoy has warned Russia's alleged involvement in the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy is "a challenge to all of us" as the Turnbull government considers its own possible sanctions against Moscow. "The position of the British side seems absolutely irresponsible to us", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

"We have said on different levels and occasions that Russian Federation has nothing to do with this story", Peskov said.

Britain called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in NY at which United Kingdom and Russian diplomats traded accusations, with Britain blaming the Russian state for the attack and Russia vehemently denying responsibility.

"Since the poisoning in Salisbury there is always a police auto on duty under my windows".

New tensions have also surfaced over the death Monday of a London-based Russian businessman, Nikolai Glushkov.

The murder is not believed to be linked to the attack on the Skripals.

May told the House of Commons that 23 Russians diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers have a week to leave Britain.

Fears of spy games have increased after the attempted murder of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in the UK.

Russian Federation has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incident.

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