Russian Federation expels 23 British diplomats in escalating spy dispute

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at the Conservative Party’s Spring Forum in central London Britain

The announcement came on the heels of Britain's order this week for 23 Russian diplomats to leave the United Kingdom because Russia was not cooperating in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both found poisoned on March 4 by a nerve agent that British officials say was developed in Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry also said in a statement that it was ordering closure of British Council, a government organization for cultural and scientific cooperation, and that it is ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

"Russia has stopped production of any chemical agents back in 1992", he told Marr, the day after Moscow expelled 23 British diplomats in a tit-for-tat measure.

British Prime Minister Theresa May this week expelled 23 Russian diplomats and severed high-level contacts over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Putin is expected to easily win a presidential election on Sunday which would take him to almost a quarter of a century in power. Putin has cast his country as a fortress besieged by hostile Western powers with him as its defender, and state media is likely to portray the anti-British move in that context.

The announcement from Russian Federation comes after British Prime Minster Theresa May said it was "highly likely" that Moscow was responsible for the poisoning.

It warned London it stood ready to take further measures in the event of more "unfriendly steps".

Skripal and his daughter may have been exposed to the nerve agent used in their attempted assassination through his auto ventilation system, intelligence sources told the U.S. television channel ABC news.

He added: 'We support exactly what the prime minister said and we condemn Russian Federation for this, condemn them.

"We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian Government".

Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks at the Conservative Party's Spring Forum in central London, Britain March 17, 2018.

Russia's Foreign Ministry also said it is closing the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg and the British Council in Russian Federation, a cultural institute, due to what it called "groundless accusations" by Britain.

'Expulsion doesn't change facts of matter'
It said this was a response to Britain's "provocative actions" and "baseless accusations" over the Salisbury incident. The Russian statement said the government could take further measures if Britain makes any more "unfriendly" moves.

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5 of family killed in Pak shelling in Poonch
India shares a 3,323-km-long border with Pakistan of which 221 km of the IB and 740 km of the LoC fall in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani troops had resorted to firing of small arms, automatics and mortars. "In village Devta 5 people died, 2 injured.

March 13 Russian Federation says it won't respond to Britain's deadline unless it is given samples of the nerve agent.

Britain's National Security Council is due to meet early next week to consider London's next steps.

ABC also reported that intelligence officials said that up to 38 individuals in Salisbury have been identified as having been affected by the nerve agent and that more victims sickened by the agent are expected to be identified.

Russian Federation gave the British diplomats one week to leave.

The British Council said it was profoundly disappointed by Russia's decision and remained committed to developing long-term people-to-people links with Russian Federation despite the closure. Russian Federation has vehemently denied its involvement in the incident and said retaliatory measures would follow soon.

But the Foreign Office dismissed the claim, saying it had "information indicating that within the last decade, Russian Federation has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination".

"We have no disagreement with the people of Russian Federation and we continue to believe it is not in our national interest to break off all dialogue between our countries".

Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, have been in hospital in a critical condition since being found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month.

A British policeman was also poisoned when he went to help them and remains in a serious but stable condition.

Sweden and the Czech Republic denied Russian suggestions they may have been the source of the nerve agent. The assertion could not be immediately verified. British police said Friday that he died from compression to the neck and opened a murder investigation. In 2008, Russian Federation ordered the council to close all its offices except the Moscow headquarters as part of retaliation for the UK's expulsion of diplomats over the radioactive poisoning of former security-service officer Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

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