Britain to expel 23 Russian diplomats over spy poisoning

Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for an attempt to assassinate a Russian ex-spy and his daughter with nerve gas in the UK last week.

Prime Minister Theresa May, addressing the House of Commons on Wednesday, accused Russia of masterminding the plot to kill the ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, the United Kingdom.

The prime minister said her charge was based on Moscow’s failure to present clarifications about usage of a nerve gas, commonly known as made and used by Russia, in the bid to assassinate the man and his daughter.

May, as quoted by the BBC, said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers,” noting that it would be the largest diplomats’ expulsion in the UK history.

Prime Minister May said she had also decided to cancel visits to Britain by Russian officials, including a scheduled mission by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, also declaring cessation of high-level bilateral consultations, plans to freeze “suspicious” Russian assets and tightening security and custom supervision on flights coming from Russia.

Moreover, British security apparatuses will boost monitoring of any bid by the Russians to rebuild their espionage networks in Britain, the premier said, warning that she would press ahead with this approach even it would warrant extraditing more diplomats.

Furthermore, the British Royal Family would not attend the Fifa World Cup, due in Russia in June.

She also said Russia has “an illegitimate” chemical program, not reported to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), urging Moscow to lift the curtain of its secret chemical activities.

The kind of chemical agent used in the plot to assassinate the former agent and his daughter is “of military nature,” May said, basing her information on laboratory tests.

May affirmed that the United Nations Security Council would hold a session later today to discuss the issue, in response to a request by Britain.

British police, on March 4, found the poisoned man and his daughter unconscious at a public park in Salsbury, after they lunched at a nearby restaurant. A police officer who the first to approach them was badly affected and suffered a coma for two days.

Skripal, who was a colonel in the Russian military intelligence, was sentenced in 2004 to 13 years behind iron bars after the Russian authorities accused him of spying for Britain.

He was released in 2006 as part of a deal to trade spies with the United States. Later on, he was granted political asylum in Britain.

Source: Kuwait News Agency