Russian Federation retaliates by expelling United Kingdom diplomats in ex-spy poisoning row

Moscow to Expel 23 UK Diplomats, Revokes Agreement on Opening Consulate Gen.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied that Russia or the Soviet Union had ever developed Novichok, the class of nerve agent that Britain says was used to poison the Skripals.

Russian Federation also said it was closing Britain's consulate in the city of Saint Petersburg, citing a "disparity" in the number of diplomatic missions held by the two countries.

"We have destroyed all chemical weapons", he added, rejecting Britain's claim that only Moscow could be behind the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Russia's expulsion of 23 British diplomats "doesn't change the facts of the matter" of the poisoning of a former double agent in an English city, Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday.

He made the remarks hours after UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the United Kingdom has evidence Russian Federation has been creating and stockpiling the Soviet-era "military-grade" nerve agent Novichok over the last decade.

Skripal, who is a retired Russian military intelligence officer, was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain.

"He added: "I exclude the possibility of any stockpiles of any chemical weapons fleeing Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there were certain specialists, including some scientists who today claim to be responsible for creating some nerve agents, that have been whisked out of Russian Federation and are now residing in the United Kingdom".

ABC also reported that intelligence officials said that up to 38 individuals in Salisbury have been identified as having been affected by the nerve agent, but the full impact is still being assessed, and more victims sickened by the agent are expected to be identified.

He reiterated Britain's position that there was "no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable" in the attack in Salisbury.

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On March 16 British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says it is "overwhelmingly likely" that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the poisoning.

Britain had been widely expecting a robust response from Russian Federation, but it was immediately unclear whether there would be further retaliatory moves.

Asked whether he was saying that Porton Down was responsible, Chizhov replied: "I don't know".

"The measures are harsh but the British deserved them".

Russian Federation also said it was halting the activities of the British Council, Britain's worldwide organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, across the country.

Russia has notified London of the retaliatory measures in relation with the so-called 'Skripal case, ' British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow confirmed on Saturday after being summoned to the foreign ministry.

Mr Johnson said: 'He let down his party and country by seemingly aiding the efforts of the Russian propaganda machine by casting doubt over what is obvious to any objective onlooker'.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, spoke Saturday after Russia ordered 23 British diplomats leave the country and that the British Council in Russia be closed.

On Wednesday the United Kingdom expelled 23 diplomats and yesterday Russian Federation retaliated by giving the same number of British diplomats a week to leave the country.

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