World UK expels 23 Russian diplomats over spy poisoning
Cleanup and concern after attack on Russian ex-spy
Military personnel in hazmat suits spent the weekend in Salisbury, England, on decontamination after nerve agent attackSergei Skripal, the Russian who spied for Britain, and his 33-year old daughter Yulia remained in critical condition on Monday.
Video by Reuters
UK's May says "highly likely" Russia behind nerve attack on spy
<p>British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday it was "highly likely" that Moscow was responsible for the poisoning in England of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter using a military-grade nerve agent.</p>Either the Russian state was directly responsible for the poisoning or it had allowed the poison, which belonged the Novichok group of nerve agents, to get into the hands of others, May told Britain's parliament.
LONDON — Britain announced Wednesday it will expel almost two dozen Russian diplomats, sever high-level bilateral contacts with Moscow and take both open and covert action against Kremlin meddling after the poisoning of a former spy, plunging U.K.-Russian relations into their deepest freeze since the Cold War.
Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers that 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers have a week to leave the country. May spoke after Moscow ignored a midnight deadline to explain how a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union was used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal. The father and daughter remain in critical condition in a hospital in Salisbury, southwestern England, after being found unconscious on March 4.
Russia calls May's spy comments a 'circus show'
Russia has branded Theresa May's suggestion that Moscow was probably behind the Salisbury poisonings as a "circus show".Updating MPs, the Prime Minister said it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for what happened.
May said Russia had provided no explanation, and "there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter."
She announced a range of economic and diplomatic measures, including the suspension of high-level bilateral contacts with Russia. An invitation for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit Britain has been canceled, and May said British ministers and royals will not attend the soccer World Cup in Russia this summer. May also said Britain would clamp down on murky Russian money and strengthen its powers to impose sanctions on abusers of human rights — though she gave few details.
"We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of U.K. nationals or residents," May said, promising to use all possible legal powers against criminals and corrupt elites. "There is no place for these people — or their money — in our country," she said.
Analysis: Britain’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats marks a return to Cold War ejections
The last time a similar number of diplomats were expelled was 1985. This time, the effect could be worse.May's announcement came after the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, in the English town of Salisbury. British authorities have concluded that the two appeared to have been targeted for assassination last week with the nerve agent Novichok, which traces back to the Russian state.
The Russian embassy in London said the expulsion of diplomats was "totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted."
"All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain," it said in a statement.
Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko said Britain's actions were "a provocation."
Critics of the British government have long claimed that the U.K. is reluctant to act against Russia because London's property market and financial sector are magnets for billions in Russian money. Some Russia experts said the measures announced by May were unlikely to make Russian President Vladimir Putin's government change its behavior. She did not expel Russia's ambassador or announce sanctions against any individuals.
"There does not seem to be any real appetite so far to investigate the ill-gotten gains of the Russian elite that have been laundered through London," said John Lough, an associate fellow in the Eurasia program at the Chatham House think-tank. "It is not clear to me that London's response will hit the Kremlin where it hurts."
White House blames Russia for 'abhorrent' attack on ex-Russian spy
The White House said in a statement Wednesday that it agreed with the British government's assessment that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K."The United States shares the United Kingdom's assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the United Kingdom's decision to expel Russian diplomats as a jus t response," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement.
Moscow refused to comply with Britain's demands that it explain how Novichok — a form of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War — came to be used in Britain. Russia said the U.K. must first provide samples of the poison collected by investigators.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Britain has offered "baseless accusations which are not backed up by any evidence." He said Russia would cooperate with the investigation but does not see Britain's willingness to reciprocate.
"We hope reason will prevail and other countries will think hard how serious the evidence against Russia is," he said. Russia has claimed that the nerve agent could have come from another former Soviet country, pointing to Moscow's foe, Ukraine.
Lawmaker Vladimir Gutenev, a member of the state commission for chemical disarmament, said Russia had scrapped its stockpile of Novichok.
"It is hard to say what may be happening in neighboring countries," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Britain has sought support from allies in the European Union and NATO, including the United States. May's office said President Donald Trump told the prime minister the U.S. was "with the U.K. all the way." On Wednesday it also called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the investigation. European Council President Donald Tusk said Wednesday that the attack was "most likely" inspired by Moscow and announced he would put the issue on the agenda at an EU leaders' summit next week.
May said Russia's use of a chemical weapon was "an affront to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. And it is an affront to the rules-based system on which we and our international partners depend."
"We will work with our allies and partners to confront such actions wherever they threaten our security, at home and abroad," she said.
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this story.
Europe steps up pressure on Russia over spy attack .
European countries are set to take further steps as early as Monday to punish Russia over the poisoning of a former spy in England, officials said, as diplomatic pressure builds on Moscow over the nerve agent attack. Russia, for its part, accused London of trying to force its European allies to take "confrontational steps" and unleashing an "anti-Russian campaign".EU leaders meeting in Brussels have agreed to recall the bloc's ambassador from Moscow over the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury.
'They have just one week to leave': May expels 23 Russian diplomats
The prime minister outlines sanctions in the wake of the Salisbury spy attack, saying 23 Russian diplomats will be expelled after Russia treated the situation with 'sarcasm, contempt and defiance'...
U.K. sanctions Russia, expels 23 diplomats
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May responded to the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal. The U.K. sanctioned Russia and expelled 23 diplomats. CBSN's Vladimir Duthiers and Anne-Marie Greene...
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