Russia’s Foreign Ministry ordered the expulsion of 23 British diplomats from Russia on Saturday in a tit-for-tat response to Britain’s decision to expel Russian envoys in connection with the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter on British soil.
The British diplomats have a week to leave, the ministry said. The UK ambassador to Moscow, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the ministry on Saturday morning and told of Moscow’s action.
Relations between the two nations have deteriorated rapidly since the March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury. The pair remain critically ill in the hospital.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May gave the 23 Russian diplomats — whom she described as undeclared intelligence officers — a week to leave on Wednesday as she accused the Russian state of being “culpable” for the attack in Salisbury.
Russia, which denies any involvement in the incident, condemned May’s decision as unacceptable and vowed a swift response.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson upped the stakes Friday when he said it was “overwhelmingly likely” that Russian President
Vladimir Putin personally gave the order to use the nerve agent against the Skripals.
In a dramatic twist Friday, London’s Metropolitan Police said that the death of Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov, who was found dead Monday in his London home, was now being treated as murder.
A post-mortem exam on the Russian exile, who had links to compatriots who died in mysterious circumstances in the UK, “gave the cause of death as compression to the neck,” a police statement said. There’s no evidence at this stage that his death and the attack on the Skripals are linked, it said.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had launched its own criminal proceedings in connection with the “attempted murder of a Russian citizen, Yulia Skripal” in Salisbury and the “murder” of Glushkov in London.