Russian Federation summons British ambassador as it readies to expel diplomats

Frank Augstein | AP  Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing St. in London

Frank Augstein | AP Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing St. in London

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for the incident and later went on to announce a package of anti-Russian measures, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the country, and the suspension of bilateral contacts between London and Moscow. The U.K. has accused Russian Federation of bearing responsibility for the attack, which British officials say involved a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed secretly by Russian Federation.

Russia responded in kind on Saturday, when the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Russia, to tell him that 23 diplomats have one week to leave Russia "in response to the provocative actions of the British side and unsubstantiated accusations", according to a statement.

The ministry said it was also closing the British consulate in Saint Petersburg and withdrawing the right of the British Council, a body that promotes British culture and language, to operate in Russian Federation.

The crisis erupted after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to a Soviet-designed nerve agent on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury, leaving them in critical condition.

Britain's National Security Council will meet in the next few days to "consider next steps", the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London said in a statement yesterday.

Russian Federation has said is open to cooperation with Britain, but has refused Britain's demands to explain how Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military, was used against the Skripals.

The statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more "unfriendly" moves toward Russian Federation.

And she also warned more measures could follow, noting that the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance and the UN Security Council had discussed the attack. The UK also said it would crack down on Russian oligarchs who stash money in London real estate and banks.

On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was overwhelmingly likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself had made the decision to use a military-grade nerve toxin to strike down Mr Skripal.

European Union leaders are to discuss the incident at a Brussels summit next week and it is also on the agenda for talks on Monday between Johnson, his European Union counterparts and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Other moves by the United Kingdom in response to the poisoning include legislative powers to defend against hostile state activity and the suspension of high-level contacts between the USA and the Russian Federation.

On Friday, police said they were treating the March 12 death of exiled businessman Nikolai Glushkov as murder after a post-mortem found he died from "compression to the neck".

Russian Federation has also said it is opening a probe into the murder of Glushkov, who was found dead at his London home. Berezovsky was found hanged in a bathroom at his home outside London in 2013.

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