Home International Britain expels 23 Russian diplomats over chemical attack on ex-spy

Britain expels 23 Russian diplomats over chemical attack on ex-spy

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Theresa May has threatened to freeze Russian assets, while Russia remains defiant and denies any involvement in the incident.

Police officers stand guard outside the home of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury

Britain will expel 23 Russian
diplomats in response to a nerve toxin attack on a Russian
former double agent in southern England, Prime Minister Theresa
May said on Wednesday, adding it was the biggest single
expulsion in over 30 years.

May said Britain would also introduce new measures to
strengthen defences against hostile state activities, freeze
Russian state assets wherever there was evidence of a threat and
downgrade its attendance at the soccer World Cup in Russia this
summer.

Russia, which has repeatedly denied any involvement in the
nerve agent attack, said Britain should expect retaliation for
its actions.

Former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33,
were found unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury on
March 4 and remain in hospital in critical condition. A police
officer was also harmed and remains in a serious condition.

May has said the Skripals were attacked with Novichok, a
Soviet-era military-grade nerve agent. She had asked Moscow to
explain whether it was responsible for the attack or had lost
control of stocks of the highly dangerous substance.

“Their response demonstrated complete disdain for the
gravity of these events,” May said in a statement to parliament.

“They have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent
in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.

“There is no alternative conclusion, other than that the
Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr
Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other
British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick
Bailey.

“This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian
state against the United Kingdom.”

May said the expulsion of the 23 diplomats, identified as
undeclared intelligence officers, was the biggest single
expulsion for over 30 years and would degrade Russian
intelligence capabilities in Britain for years to come.

“We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the
evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property
of UK nationals or residents,” May said.

She also said new legislative proposals would be urgently
developed to counter any threat from a hostile state.

“This will include the addition of a targeted power to
detain those suspected of hostile state activity at the UK
border,” May said.

British authorities would make use of existing powers to
enhance efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those
travelling to the UK who could be engaged in activities that
represented a security threat.

“We will increase checks on private flights, customs and
freight,” she said.

She also threatened action against those she described as
“serious criminals and corrupt elites,” adding: “There is no
place for these people, or their money, in our country.”

May said Britain would revoke an invitation to Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit the country and suspend
all planned high level bilateral contacts between London and
Moscow.

On the soccer World Cup, she said no ministers or members of
the British royal family would attend.