CLOSINGS: View Closings

Russia expels 23 UK diplomats as fallout over nerve agent attack grows

Russia's Foreign Ministry ordered the expulsion of 23 British diplomats from Russia on Saturday in a tit-for-tat resp...

Posted: Mar 18, 2018 1:20 PM
Updated: Mar 18, 2018 1:20 PM

Russia's Foreign Ministry ordered the expulsion of 23 British diplomats from Russia on Saturday in a tit-for-tat response to Britain's decision to expel Russian envoys in connection with the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter on British soil.

The ministry also declared it was closing the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg and the British Council in Russia, in a step beyond the measures taken by Britain. The British Council is a cultural institute with artistic, language and educational programs.

The UK diplomats have a week to leave, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, adding that its actions came "in response to the provocative actions of the British side and groundless accusations" against Russia over the Salisbury attack.

"The British side is warned that in case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures," the ministry said.

Russian Senator Igor Morozov, a veteran of the Russian Service of External Intelligence, claimed that the British Council was shut down because UK intelligence operated "under the roof" of the organization, state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The British Council said it was "profoundly disappointed" by Moscow's decision to order its closure.

"It is our view that when political or diplomatic relations become difficult, cultural relations and educational opportunities are vital to maintain on-going dialogue between people and institutions," it said in a statement.

"We remain committed to the development of long-term people-to-people links with Russia as we do in over 100 other countries."

Retaliation comes swiftly

Relations between the two nations have deteriorated rapidly since the March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, in the English city of Salisbury. The pair remain critically ill in the hospital.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday gave the 23 Russian diplomats -- whom she described as undeclared intelligence officers -- a week to leave, as she accused the Russian state of being "culpable" for the attack in Salisbury.

Russia, which denies any involvement in the incident, condemned May's decision as unacceptable and vowed a swift response.

Its retaliatory move came a day before Russians go to the polls for a presidential election in which President Vladimir Putin is expected to win a second consecutive term.

The United Kingdom's ambassador to Moscow, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the Russian ministry on Saturday to be told of Moscow's decision. The British Embassy in Moscow told CNN it had been given a list of 23 specific individuals that were to be expelled from Russia.

In comments to reporters after he left the Foreign Ministry, Bristow said the crisis had arisen because of "the attempted murder of two people using a chemical weapon developed in Russia and not declared by Russia." He said Britain must defend itself.

"We have no dispute with the Russian people," he said. "But we will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies, and our values against an attack of this sort, which is an attack not only on the United Kingdom, but upon the international rules-based system, on which all countries, all countries including Russia, depend for their safety and security."

The UK Foreign Office said its priority was looking after its staff in Russia and helping those who will return to Britain.

UK: Russia in 'flagrant breach' of law

Addressing members of her Conservative Party on Saturday, May said the Russian move had been "anticipated" and that Britain would consider its next steps in the coming days, when the National Security Council is due to meet.

Russia's response does not change the fact that Moscow was in "flagrant breach of international law" and the Chemical Weapons Convention, she said.

The UK government was backed this week by allies France, Germany and the United States in its assessment that there was "no plausible alternative explanation" than that Russia was responsible for the Salisbury attack. UK officials believe the Skripals were exposed to a nerve agent known as Novichok that was developed in Russia.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson upped the stakes Friday when he said it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Putin personally gave the order to use the nerve agent against the Skripals.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to CNN, slammed that remark.

"We have said on different levels and occasions that Russia has nothing to do with this story," he said. "Any reference or mentioning of our President is nothing else but shocking and unpardonable diplomatic misconduct."

Russia has insisted it is ready to cooperate in investigating the attack in Salisbury if Britain reciprocates by sharing the evidence it holds.

UK police renewed their appeal Saturday for people who may have seen Sergei Skripal's burgundy BMW car on the morning of Sunday, March 4, to share what they know.

About 400 witnesses have already come forward in what is "extremely challenging and complex investigation," Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of London's Metropolitan Police said. Officers also are trawling through some 4,000 hours of CCTV footage, he said.

Glushkov murder investigation

In a dramatic twist Friday, the Metropolitan Police said that the death of Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov, who was found dead Monday in his London home, was now being treated as murder.

A post-mortem exam on the Russian exile, who had links to compatriots who died in mysterious circumstances in the UK, "gave the cause of death as compression to the neck," a police statement said. There's no evidence at this stage that his death and the attack on the Skripals are linked, it said.

Russia's Investigative Committee said it had launched its own criminal proceedings in connection with the "attempted murder of a Russian citizen, Yulia Skripal" in Salisbury and the "murder" of Glushkov in London.

UK-Russia relations have been fractious ever since the assassination of another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, in 2006.

A UK inquiry found that two Russian agents poisoned Litvinenko at a London hotel bar in 2006 by spiking his tea with highly radioactive polonium-210, and that Putin "probably approved" Litvinenko's killing. The Kremlin has always denied the accusation.

Sergei Skripal was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006 for spying for Britain, according to Russian state media accounts of the closed hearing.

Russian court officials at the time said he'd received at least $100,000 for his work for MI6, the British intelligence service. He was granted refuge in the UK after a high-profile spy exchange between the United States and Russia in 2010.

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 54°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 57°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 54°
Decatur
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 54°
Fort Payne
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 54°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499411

Reported Deaths: 10149
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson719951403
Mobile36396741
Madison32674469
Tuscaloosa24391423
Montgomery22789523
Shelby22250219
Baldwin19915289
Lee15070161
Calhoun13961296
Morgan13785255
Etowah13413327
Marshall11458215
Houston10121264
Elmore9509190
Limestone9435139
St. Clair9050228
Cullman8993183
Lauderdale8628214
DeKalb8507175
Talladega7643165
Walker6600260
Jackson6551104
Autauga634492
Blount6252128
Colbert6007121
Coffee5261104
Dale4680107
Russell407534
Franklin400779
Covington3996107
Chilton3911104
Escambia379473
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3432111
Dallas3428142
Pike292973
Marion288796
Lawrence285787
Winston258568
Bibb246058
Marengo244657
Geneva240270
Pickens225757
Barbour213851
Hale212569
Fayette202657
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178140
Monroe166739
Randolph165141
Washington157036
Macon147845
Crenshaw146755
Clay146254
Cleburne140141
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123225
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter100832
Coosa90324
Greene88732
Choctaw55723
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 782206

Reported Deaths: 11543
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby878791517
Davidson82125874
Knox46447589
Hamilton40698463
Rutherford38749388
Williamson25489204
Sumner21542320
Montgomery17539213
Out of TN1718496
Wilson16618211
Unassigned15837126
Sullivan14499275
Blount14189184
Bradley13067141
Washington12840234
Maury12273162
Sevier12158165
Putnam10660170
Madison10136232
Robertson9027121
Anderson8103158
Hamblen8088166
Greene7315145
Tipton6974103
Coffee6432115
Dickson6295106
Gibson6200141
Cumberland6137123
Carter5998155
McMinn597193
Roane594696
Bedford5841120
Loudon573666
Jefferson5717119
Lawrence558083
Monroe539591
Warren533377
Hawkins529598
Dyer5248101
Franklin476585
Fayette468773
Obion437195
Lincoln416462
Rhea415573
Cocke403996
Cheatham397944
Marshall392857
Campbell383459
Weakley379960
Giles375897
Henderson362574
Carroll349381
White339866
Hardeman339465
Macon337773
Hardin332063
Lauderdale310042
Henry301675
Marion295945
Wayne288830
Scott288644
Overton286558
Claiborne284769
McNairy268753
Hickman267941
DeKalb267251
Haywood265160
Smith257936
Grainger244846
Trousdale240022
Morgan231138
Fentress230044
Johnson217538
Chester202448
Bledsoe201310
Crockett197447
Unicoi182147
Polk179122
Cannon178630
Union174134
Grundy170230
Lake167926
Sequatchie157527
Humphreys155621
Decatur154237
Benton151339
Lewis147625
Meigs126823
Jackson125734
Stewart124425
Clay107131
Houston103832
Perry103528
Moore94716
Van Buren79720
Pickett74723
Hancock50012

Community Events