British Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday Britain will decide what actions it will take next after Russia announced earlier in the day it is expelling 23 British diplomats.
“We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian government. We can be reassured by the strong support we have received from our friends and allies around the world,” May said at the Conservative Party’s spring forum in London.
Russia’s retaliatory move comes after Britain’s decision earlier in the week to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, who were found unconscious on a park bench in the English town of Salisbury and rushed to the hospital where they remain in serious condition. British officials say the chemical nerve agent known as Novichok – developed by the Soviet Union and inherited by Russia – was used in the attack.
Russia said its moves Saturday were in response to Britain’s “provocative actions” and “baseless accusations over the incident in Salisbury.”
The British diplomats in Russia are considered “persona non grata and to be expelled within a week,” according to the statement which was issued after Russia summoned British ambassador Laurie Bristow to the Foreign Ministry.
Russia has also decided to stop the activities of the British Council in Russia. The Council is Britain’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities.
Russia has also withdraw permission for Britain to open a consulate in Saint Petersburg.
Earlier this week. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Prime Minister May’s actions “boorish” and said they were intended to distract from Britain’s difficult negotiations in leaving the European Union.
Skripal, a former agent of Russia’s military intelligence agency, was arrested in 2004 for betraying dozens of Russian agents to Britain. He was freed in 2010 as part of an exchange of spies with the United States, and eventually settled in Britain.