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The Latest: Pizza served at US consulate amid diplomatic war

The Latest: Pizza served at US consulate amid diplomatic war
The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — The Latest on the fallout from the Russian ex-spy poisoning (all times local):

4:40 p.m.

Amid a Russia-West diplomatic dispute, envoys at the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg have paused for some pizza.

A van delivered more than 20 pizzas Friday to the consulate, which Moscow ordered to shut down amid the escalating diplomatic war between Russia and the West. The closure of the consulate in Russia’s second-largest city mirrors the U.S. move to shut the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Two dozen countries, including the U.S. and many EU nations, and NATO ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter that London blamed on Russia. Moscow has vehemently denied involvement in the nerve agent attack and announced the expulsion of the same number of diplomats from each nation.

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4:10 p.m.

Bulgaria’s prime minister says his country won’t expel Russian diplomats as a response to the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy in Britain.

Boyko Borissov has said after a meeting of the government security council that his government was looking forward to more proof about the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The government has decided that Bulgaria should limit itself for now to full support for Britain which has already been stated at the European Council and by recalling its ambassador from Moscow for consultations.

Borissov said that Bulgaria, which currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, should keep open communication channels with Russia.

Bulgaria, once Moscow’s closest ally, is still heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies, on spare parts for its Soviet-era military equipment and on sizeable revenues from the tourism industry.

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3:40 p.m.

British officials say the Russian order to reduce Britain’s diplomatic presence in Moscow is “regrettable” but had been anticipated.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it has ordered Britain to reduce the number of its diplomats in Moscow to the level that Russia has in London.

A Foreign Office statement released Friday said the Russian action “doesn’t change the facts” of the nerve-agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

It says there is no alternative to the conclusion that the Russian state was to blame for the attempted “assassination of two people on British soil.”

The Foreign Office says Russia is “in flagrant breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Officials refuse to discuss how many diplomats might have to be removed to comply with the Russian order.

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3:05 p.m.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says it has ordered Britain to reduce the number of its diplomats in Moscow to the level that Russia has in London, firing another salvo in a diplomatic war over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain.

The ministry said it summoned the British ambassador Friday to hand him a protest over the “provocative and unsubstantiated actions by Britain, which instigated the expulsion of Russian diplomats from various nations for no reason.” It said Friday that London has a month to reduce its diplomatic personnel to the same number of diplomats that Russia has in Britain.

That number wasn’t immediately clear.

Two dozen countries, including the U.S. and many EU nations, and NATO have ordered out more than 150 Russian diplomats this week in a show of solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter that London blamed on Russia. Moscow has denied involvement and announced Thursday that it would expel the same number of diplomats from each nation.

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2 p.m.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says it is summoning ambassadors from the countries that expelled Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain to serve them notices about Moscow’s response.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Thursday that Moscow would expel the same number of diplomats from each of the nations that ordered Russian diplomats out. The Foreign Ministry said it was summoning ambassadors from those nations Friday to announce retaliatory measures.

Earlier this week, two dozen countries, including the U.S. and many EU nations, and NATO have expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. A hospital treating them said Thursday the woman was improving rapidly and was now in stable condition, though her father remained in critical condition.

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1:30 p.m.

The Kremlin says it remains open to normalizing ties with the U.S. and other nations despite Moscow’s quid pro quo response to their expulsion of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Moscow was forced to retaliate after the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats by two dozen countries, including the U.S. and many EU nations, and NATO. Peskov said that “Russia remains open for developing good ties.”

Moscow said it would expel the same number of diplomats from each country that ordered Russian diplomats out. It summoned the U.S. ambassador to announce the closure of the American consulate in St. Petersburg and the expulsion of 60 U.S. diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to Washington’s moves.

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12:35 p.m.

U.S. Consulate staff in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, are preparing to wind up operations after the Russian government ordered the consulate’s closure.

Russia on Thursday announced the expulsion of more than 150 diplomats, including 60 Americans, in response to mass expulsions of Russian diplomats by Western countries over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.

Russia also ordered the closure of the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.

An Associated Press reporter on Friday saw consulate staff carrying boxes from the building and loading them into a van. Several mini-vans drove out of the consulate while security also detained a man who threw a paper coffee cup at the building.

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