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Newsline: Russia expels 23 UK diplomats

Moscow is to expel 23 UK diplomats and shut down the British Council in Russia amid increasing tensions over a nerve agent attack against a former double agent and his daughter on British soil. The Russian foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador on Saturday to inform him of the retaliatory action taken after the UK’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. But the Russian Federation has gone a step further and has shut down all activities of the British Council, the cultural organisation which promotes greater understanding of the UK and the English language. The foreign ministry said it would also shut down a consulate in St Petersburg.



Newsline: Russia will expel British diplomats in poisoning standoff

Russia said Friday that it will expel British diplomats and halt high-level meetings with the U.K. in an increasingly global standoff over the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy — but still isn’t saying who will be kicked out or when. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said to expect a Russian response “shortly” to Britain’s expulsion of Russian diplomats and accused Britain of violating international law and “common sense.” Russia’s foreign minister said Britain’s defense minister “lacks education.” Geopolitical tensions are mounting since the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month, in what Western powers see as the latest sign of increasingly aggressive Russian meddling abroad. The tensions threaten to overshadow Putin’s expected re-election Sunday for another six-year term. “We have never encountered this level of discussion on the global stage,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, saying he’s been surprised by the British reaction. Accusing the Russian state of the nerve agent attack, Britain is expelling 23 Russian diplomats and is trying to build a coalition of countries to punish Moscow as a result.


Newsline: Russian embassy relies on Twitter diplomacy, trolls UK government

When Theresa May stood up in parliament on Wednesday and said that the Russian reaction to the use of a nerve agent on British soil had been “sarcasm, contempt, and defiance” she must in part have been referring to the social media output of Russia’s UK embassy since the news broke of Sergei Skripal’s poisoning. While the embassy’s official response has been terse and sober – a 57-word statement that describes the UK’s diplomatic expulsions as a “hostile action” that is “totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted” – its Twitter activity has been anything but restrained; instead it has frequently goaded May’s government. Following the announcement of the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats described as “undeclared intelligence officers” by May, the embassy tweeted an image of a thermometer. Describing the temperature of relations between the two countries as dropping to -23C. The tweet finished “but we are not afraid of cold weather”.



Newsline: Russian embassy lashes out at UK expulsion of diplomats

Britain’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats following the poisoning of a former double agent is a hostile and unjustified action, Russia’s embassy in London said on Wednesday. Britain accuses Russia of being responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, southern England, but Russia denies involvement and says Britain is to blame for worsening relations between the two countries. “We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and short-sighted,” the Russian embassy said in a statement in reaction to the expulsion.



Newsline: Britain Expels 23 Russian Diplomats Over Ex-Spy’s Poisoning

British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats on Wednesday, blaming Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and sharply escalating the dispute between the two countries. Her statement to Parliament came after Moscow rejected a British deadline for Russia to explain itself over this month’s nerve-agent attack on the former spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter. The two countries have engaged in a worsening clash in recent days, with Britain widening an investigation into the incident and courting friends and allies to increase pressure on Russia, while Moscow has threatened to retaliate over any punitive action. “This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom,” Mrs. May said in an address to the House of Commons. “It must therefore be met with a full and robust response.” She said she had agreed with Britain’s National Security Council to suspend all high-level contacts between her country and Russia, and to expel 23 Russian diplomats, who were given one week to leave. She described it as the biggest expulsion in more than 30 years. The prime minister also said the government had agreed on new powers to crack down on the activities of foreign intelligence agents in Britain, that there was no place for “serious criminals and corrupt elites” in the country, and that an invitation for Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov of Russia to visit had been withdrawn.


Newsline: Russian embassy demands explanation from UK Foreign Office about cyber attack threats

Russia’s embassy in London said it has requested official explanations from the UK Foreign Office concerning cyber attack threats. “Embassy has officially requested explanations from Foreign Office on the cyber attack threats heard at Parliament and in the media. Russia takes a serious view on cyber security breaches,” the embassy wrote on its Twitter account. The Russian embassy in London said that Moscow was seriously alarmed over British MPs’ statements on possible cyber attacks on Russia. “Statements by a number of MPs, “Whitehall sources” and “experts” regarding a possible “deployment” of “offensive cyber-capabilities” cause serious concern. Not only is Russia groundlessly and provocatively accused of the Salisbury incident, but, apparently, plans are being developed in the UK to strike Russia with cyber weapons,” the embassy’s press secretary said.



Newsline: UK could expel Russian diplomats

Prime Minister Theresa May has given the Russian government until midnight on Tuesday to provide a “credible” explanation for the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, after which she will “set out the full range of measures” Britain will take in retaliation. Among the possible responses the UK could take are expulsions of Russian diplomats. Britain last expelled Russian diplomats back in 2012 following “evidence of activities by the Russian intelligence services against UK interests.” Such expulsions are relatively common in international diplomacy and are normally the first port of call in any major diplomatic incident. It is highly likely that at least some Russian diplomats will be kicked out by Britain. However, Britain will want to retain some diplomatic ties with Russia on UK soil.