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Russia to expel 23 British diplomats, close consulate general in St. Petersburg
Twenty three British diplomats have been declared personae non gratae and will be expelled within a week, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
"On March 17, British Ambassador to Moscow Laurie Bristow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry where he was handed a note saying that in response to provocative actions of the British side and evidence-free accusations against the Russian Federation over the incident in the city of Salisbury on March 4 this year, the Russian side has taken the following retaliatory measures.
Twenty three diplomats of the British Embassy in Moscow have been declared personae non gratae and will be expelled within a week's time.
Taking into account the disparity in the number of consulates of the two countries, Russia withdraws permission to open the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg. Related procedures will be carried out in accordance with international law. Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in the Russian Federation it will be dissolved," the statement said.
Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in the Russian Federation, its activities are terminated," the statement said
"The British side has been warned that if more unfriendly actions against Russia follow, the Russian side reserves the right of taking other retaliation measures," the ministry added.
On March 4, ex-Colonel Sergey Skripal of Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate convicted for spying for the United Kingdom, and his daughter Yulia were exposed to a nerve agent. They were found unconscious on a bench near a shopping center in Salisbury.
On March 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack on Skripal and his daughter. She identified the substance used in the attack as a Novichok nerve agent, developed in the Soviet Union. PM accused Russia of "an unlawful use of force" against her country. Later she announced that London would expel 23 Russian diplomats and take other measures against Moscow.
The British Council is the UK's international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It works with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Its first office in Russia was opened in 1992 in Moscow, after which the council's branches were launched in a number of cities across the country. Since January 1, 2008 the activities of all regional branches of the British Council in Russia, excluding its head office in Moscow, have been terminated as not complying with the Russian legislation.
[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 17Mar18]
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