Russia to Expel 23 British Diplomats, Close Consulate General in St. Petersburg

MOSCOW- Twenty three British diplomats have been declared personae non gratae and will be expelled within a week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

"On March 17, British Ambassador to Moscow Laurie Bristow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry where he was handed a note saying that in response to provocative actions of the British side and evidence-free accusations against the Russian Federation over the incident in the city of Salisbury on March 4 this year, the Russian side has taken the following retaliatory measures.

Twenty three diplomats of the British Embassy in Moscow have been declared personae non gratae and will be expelled within a week’s time, according to Itar Tass.

 Taking into account the disparity in the number of consulates of the two countries, Russia withdraws permission to open the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg. Related procedures will be carried out in accordance with international law. Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in the Russian Federation it will be dissolved," the statement said.

Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in the Russian Federation, its activities are terminated," the statement said

"The British side has been warned that if more unfriendly actions against Russia follow, the Russian side reserves the right of taking other retaliation measures," the ministry added.

On March 4, ex-Colonel Sergey Skripal of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate convicted for spying for the United Kingdom, and his daughter Yulia were exposed to a nerve agent. They were found unconscious on a bench near a shopping center in Salisbury.

On March 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack on Skripal and his daughter. She identified the substance used in the attack as a Novichok nerve agent, developed in the Soviet Union. PM accused Russia of "an unlawful use of force" against her country. Later she announced that London would expel 23 Russian diplomats and take other measures against Moscow.

Zakharova: Scandal around Skripal case related to Syria

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Rossiya’24 TV channel  that the anti-Russia scandal whipped up by the United Kingdom around the case of former GRU military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal has a connection to Syria.

"The world should have been shown somehow that in fact Russia is not a peacemaker, but it plays a some sort of own game. Immediately, a new spiral of anti-Russia campaign has surfaced embodied in statements of the UK prime minister," she said. "It is the first track linking these two stories (Russia’s activity in Syria and Skripal case - TASS)."

"The anti-Russian campaign is obvious," she said. "The second track is an alleged theme of chemical weapons.".

H.M

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