United Kingdom braced for Russian response to expulsions

Putin order for bomb threat plane to be downed in 2014 canceled after false alarm

Putin order for bomb threat plane to be downed in 2014 canceled after false alarm

Johnson said earlier on Friday that London believed it "overwhelmingly likely" that the Russian leader had personally handed down orders to use a nerve agent to poison Skripal.

Meanwhile, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that a mushrooming diplomatic scandal over the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain won't disrupt Russia's presidential vote.

On Thursday, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and United Kingdom issued a joint statement on the attack, condemning the "first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War".

But Peskov repeated that "Russia has nothing to do with this story", in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in a critical condition after the March 4 attack in the English city of Salisbury.

The UK government says they were poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russian Federation called Novichok, and Prime Minister Theresa May said she believed Moscow was "culpable". "That is why we are at odds with Russian Federation".

"It is precisely the will of the people, the will of every citizen of Russia, that will determine what path our country takes", Putin said in a video circulated across Russian media outlets late on Thursday.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has backed Britain following the March 4 attack in the southwestern English city of Salisbury, which left Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a critical condition.

"If the Russian government stopped using chemical weapons to assassinate its enemies; and if the Russian government stopped helping its Syrian ally to use chemical weapons to kill Syrian children; and if Russia cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by turning over all information related to this nerve agent, we would stop talking about them", she said.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned Moscow will expel British diplomats "soon".

Lavrov was speaking in the Kazakh capital Astana following talks on Syria with the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey.

"We have nothing against the Russians themselves".

He said his country had no motive to target Skripal, but suggested others could use the poisoning to "complicate" the World Cup.

A Russian election monitoring group says government authorities forced the closure of a center created to collect complaints of violations in Sunday's presidential vote.

President Vladimir Putin has launched a televised appeal for Russians to vote in the upcoming presidential elections, warning those that fail to vote that the decision will be made without taking their opinion into account. "We have not raised any tensions in our relations, it was the decision by the British side without evidence".

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