Expelled Russian diplomats leave Britain in spy poisoning standoff

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 20, 2018

Britain says the pair were poisoned with a Soviet-developed form of nerve agent known as Novichok.

Russia denies involvement, but Western powers see it as a sign of increasingly aggressive Russian meddling overseas.

Removal vans and diplomatic cars have been arriving at the embassy in London.

A Cold War-era scientist acknowledged on Tuesday he had helped create the nerve agent, contradicting Moscow's insistence that neither Russian Federation nor the Soviet Union ever had such a program.

As the diplomats leave London in the biggest tit-for-tat expulsions since Margaret Thatcher ordered Soviet spies to leave in 1985, May was due to chair a National Security Council meeting on the crisis. The EU on Monday condemned the poisoning and called on Russian Federation to "address urgently" British questions about the Novichok nerve agent program.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called Britain's accusations "speculative and baseless".

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a news conference after a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defense Ministers session at the NATO headquarters in Brussels Belgium
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The father and daughter remain in a critical condition in hospital following their exposure to the lethal nerve agent, Novichok.

In a statement, it accused Britain and other European Union member states of continuing development of similar nerve agents and said Britain's government is stirring up "media hysteria" around the case to distract Britons from the government's troubles in negotiating the country's exit from the EU. "We destroyed all our chemical weapons under the supervision of worldwide organisations, and we did it first, unlike some of our partners who promised to do it, but unfortunately did not keep their promises", Putin said. Worldwide chemical weapons experts are due to take samples of the nerve agent. A police officer who came to their assistance is in serious condition. "It is going to take weeks, possibly months to do this".

Russian Federation has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter and on Saturday gave 23 British diplomats a week to leave Moscow as well as closing the British Council in Russian Federation.

Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov told Interfax that the Skripal case "won't change anything for us at all".

Meanwhile, the head of counter-terrorism policing in the UK, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, said the focus of the Salisbury investigation is "on the movements of the Skripals".

Glushkov, 68, was an associate of Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch and strong Kremlin critic who died under disputed circumstances in 2013.

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