UK to Expel 23 Russian Diplomat ‘Undeclared Intelligence Officers’ in Wake of Salisbury Attack

SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Military personnel wearing protective suits remove a police car and other vehicles from a public car park as they continue investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 11, 2018 in Salisbury, England. Sergei Skripal who was granted refuge in the UK following a …
Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The British government has given 23 Russian diplomats which it claims are “undeclared intelligence officers” one week to leave the country, after the Russian Federation failed to provide a response to questions over their involvement in the attempted murder of two people in Salisbury, England, by the midnight deadline.

Stating that the UK Government had concluded that the Russian government had either authorised the attack against Mr Skripal or had lost control of a nerve agent, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the Russian Federation had “treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt, and defiance” and left her government with no choice but to respond.

Explaining she would be taking “immediate action to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK”, May said “under the Vienna convention, the UK will now expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers”, saying this would “fundamentally degrade” Russian intelligence capabilities in the United Kingdom.

The government was also suspending all high-level bilateral contacts with the Russian government, including cancelling forthcoming ministerial visits. The British government, nor members of the Royal Family would be attending this summer’s football World Cup.

The Prime Minister said:

It was right to offer Russia the right to offer an explanation, but their response has displayed complete disdain for the gravity of these events. They have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent, no explanation how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom, no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law.

Instead, 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 the Russian state being culpable for attempted murder.

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

May said she had spoken to President Trump, Chancellor Merkel, and President Macron in the past 24 hours and the leaders had agreed to “cooperate closely in responding to this barbaric act”.

The Prime Minister’s statement on Russia’s response to the suspected attack in Salisbury came shortly after the Russian Ambassador left meetins with the Foreign and Commonwealth office, and told a Sky News television crew on Whitehall: “everything done today by the British government is absolutely unacceptable, and we consider this a provocation.

“We believe the United Kingdom should follow international law, and under these obligations, they have the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, they have to present the request to the organisation, and then we are happy to consider this within the ten days. This is international law, and that is exactly what my minister said today. We believe the measures taken by the British government has nothing to do with the situation in Salisbury, we believe this is a very serious provocation and we are not ready to talk”.

The Salisbury attack took place on Sunday 4th, when two individuals — later revealed to be former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia — were found comatose on a bench on a Salisbury shopping street. Although police first speculated it was a drug overdose, the government later revealed a chemical gent had been used, and several sites across Salisbury including a restaurant, pub, and hospital were closed for decontamination.

Up to two dozen individuals have been treated for exposure to the chemical agent since the attack, including the first police officer on the scene Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey who remains in serious but stable condition.

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