Published: Пн, Марта 19, 2018

Russian Federation expels 23 British diplomats in latest response to spy poisoning crisis

The run-up to Russia's last presidential election in 2012 was marked by protests across the country against Putin's return as head of state after four years as prime minister.

Russian Federation also ordered the British consulate in St Petersburg to close and told the British Council to end its work in the country.

British ambassador Laurie Bristow was informed of the retaliation at the Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday, after which he said the use of the nerve agent in Britain was an attack on global values.

"We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian government", the Conservative leader added, eliciting applause.

"It is our view that when political or diplomatic relations become hard, cultural relations and educational opportunities are vital to maintain ongoing dialogue between people and institutions", a statement said.

Shortly before voting day on TV, Putin urged citizens to vote: "I, therefore, ask you to come to the polling stations on Sunday, use your right to choose a future for the great Russian Federation that we love".

"We continue to believe it is not in our national interest to break off all dialogue between our countries, but the onus remains on the Russian state to account for their actions", it said.

The Russian response was announced on the eve of a presidential election which is expected to hand Vladimir Putin a fourth term in the Kremlin, but which comes as the country appears increasingly isolated.

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It said this was a response to Britain's "provocative actions" and "baseless accusations over the Salisbury incident". It warned London it stood ready to take further measures in the event of more "unfriendly steps".

A tweet by the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom said the 23 diplomats were expelled "to reach numerical parity" and that the British Council was closing "due to lack of legal grounds".

The Foreign Ministry said it would also order an end to all activities of the British Council, Britain's global organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities, and warned London that "if any further unfriendly actions are taken against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take other retaliatory measures".

The British consulate in St. Petersburg was also ordered to close and the British Council must stop its work in Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a website statement Saturday.

However, Moscow denies any involvement with the attack and says it is shocked and bemused by the allegations.

Britain has escalated a war of words with Russian Federation over the incident in recent days.

Johnson on Friday had said it was "overwhelmingly likely" that it was Putin's decision "to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K".

Speaking to the BBC news on Thursday, Johnson said the rare Soviet-made chemical weapon used against Skripal and his daughter in the town of Salisbury was specifically chosen to send a message to political dissenters challenging Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

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