March 31 (UPI) — More than 50 British personnel will be expelled from Russia so the nations have a similar number of personnel at their diplomatic missions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
Moscow initially expelled 23 British diplomats in a mirror move after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats, which began after the March 4 poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter in Salisbury, Britain.
Russian Foreign Ministry claims the move will establish parity with Russia’s diplomatic mission to Britain.
“Russia offered parity,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
On Friday, ambassadors from 23 nations were summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry and told their diplomatic personnel would be expelled. The number of personnel ordered to leave Russia, in most cases by April 5, is equivalent to the number of Moscow diplomats told to leave embassies in host nations this week.
Friday’s moves came after Russia expelled 60 U.S. diplomatic staff the day before, a tit-for-tat move that followed an order from U.S. officials on Monday to expel 60 Russian agents from diplomatic missions in the United States and the closing of Russia’s consulate in Seattle.
Also Saturday, Russian officials are questioning why British authorities searched a Moscow-bound plane Friday at London’s Heathrow Airport.
“In the absence of an explanation, the Russian side will regard these actions against our aircraft as illegal, and also reserves the possibility of similar actions against British air carriers,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Britain’s Security Minister said the search was “routine.”
British officials are considering granting a request by Russia to visit Skripal’s daughter, who is rapidly improving from the attack. Her father is in still in critical condition, but stable.