Russia expelled 23 British diplomats on Saturday (March 17) in a retaliatory move over British accusations that the Kremlin orchestrated a nerve toxin attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in southern England.
Escalating a crisis in relations, Russia said it was also shutting down the activities of the British Council, which fosters cultural links between the two countries, and withdrawing agreement for Britain to operate a consulate-general in St. Petersburg.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was giving the 23 British diplomats one week to leave the country.
The move followed Britain’s decision on Wednesday (March 14) to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the attack in the English city of Salisbury which left former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, critically ill in hospital.
The ministry said Moscow’s measures were a response to what it called Britain’s “provocative actions and groundless accusations.” It had warned London it stood ready to take further measures in the event of more “unfriendly steps.”
Relations between London and Moscow have crashed to a post-Cold War low over the attack, the first known offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two.