U.K. ‘hits back’, to expel 23 Russian diplomats

Action follows poisoning of former double agent, daughter

March 14, 2018 06:34 pm | Updated December 01, 2021 12:34 pm IST - LONDON

Ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury, southwest England.

Ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury, southwest England.

Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats and withdraw an invitation for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit the country as the first concrete actions in response to the “unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.”

The moves come in response to the poisoning of the former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month.

The diplomats to be expelled had been identified as “undeclared intelligence officers” and their removal would represent the single biggest expulsion in over 30 years, Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons on Wednesday, ahead of an urgent session of the UN Security Council to be held at Britain’s behest to discuss the poisoning.

Ms. May’s comments came after the deadline, set by Britain for an “explanation” from Russia as to why novichok — a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia — had come to be used in the Salisbury poisoning, passed.


Russia denied any involvement, and condemned Britain’s response, including its failure to share a sample of the agent used with Russian authorities.

“They have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance… it must therefore be met with a full and robust response…,” Ms. May told the House of Commons.

Earlier this week Ms. May told the House it was “highly likely” that the Russian state was involved in the poisonings.

“There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Skripal and his daughter — and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey,” she said on Wednesday.

The Russian Embassy in London condemned the decision to expel its diplomats as a “hostile action” that was “total unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted.

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