Russian Federation to expel 23 British diplomats

Russia and UK are engaged in a row over the poisoning of an ex Russian double agent in England

Russia and UK are engaged in a row over the poisoning of an ex Russian double agent in England

In a response, Russian Federation has called the allegations "shocking and inexcusable" and a breach of diplomatic rules of decent behaviour.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday Moscow had already decided on retaliatory measures, which she said Britain would be informed of in the near future.

The UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson pointed the finger directly at Vladimir Putin on Friday, saying that it is "overwhelmingly likely" that the Russian president personally took the decision to use a nerve agent to attempt to kill Mr Skripal on British soil.

"Our priority today is looking after our staff in Russian Federation and assisting those that will return to the United Kingdom", the British Foreign Office said in a statement Saturday reported by Reuters, as the diplomatic staff leaves Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated Moscow's line that there was no "clear evidence" for any Russian involvement in the attack, RIA reported.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital in critical condition since March 4, when they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the southern English city of Salisbury.

The global chemical weapons watchdog says the class of nerve agents used in the Skripal attack has never been declared by any of its member states.

Britain this week ordered 23 Russian diplomats to leave but Russia claims Britain has presented no evidence to back its allegations.

Russia's response had been anticipated, a UK Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the UK National Security Council would meet early next week to discuss next steps. A police officer was also harmed and remains in a serious condition.

While many British politicians have backed the government in blaming Moscow for the nerve agent attack, the U.K.'s main opposition leader has cautioned against a rush to judgment.

Russian Federation denies being the source of the nerve agent, suggesting it could have been another country, and has demanded Britain share samples collected by investigators. He also cast doubt on the possibilities that the nerve agent was sent through the mail or was placed in luggage that Skripal's daughter brought with her from Russian Federation to Britain. "Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in the Russian Federation it will be dissolved", the statement said.

May says Russian Federation was "in flagrant breach of worldwide law".

In what seems like a unusual coincidence, police now say Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian former businessman, was murdered last week at his home just outside London.

Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain "will consider our next steps in the coming days alongside our allies and partners" in a dispute with Russian Federation over the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy on British soil.

The murder is not believed to be linked to the attack on Skripal and his daughter.

British police said there was no apparent link between the attack on Glushkov and the poisoning of the Skripals, but both have raised alarm in the West at a time when Russian Federation is increasingly assertive on the global stage and facing investigations over alleged interference in the Donald Trump's election as USA president.

The Russian dissident died of Polonium radiation poisoning in London in 2006 in an attack that Britain also blamed on Russia.

The source of the nerve agent - which Britain says is Soviet-made Novichok - is unclear, as is the way it was administered.

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