Published: Sat, March 17, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Russian Federation to expel United Kingdom diplomats as crisis over nerve toxin attack deepens

Russian Federation to expel United Kingdom diplomats as crisis over nerve toxin attack deepens

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Friday it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally gave the order to use a nerve agent to attack a former double spy in what's the most direct accusation yet against Russia's leader.

The escalating worldwide scandal is unfolding as Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition after exposure to the Soviet-designed chemical Novichok on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury.

"Our quarrel is with Putin's Kremlin and with his decision - and we think it is overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision - to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the United Kingdom, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War".

"We condemn this unprecedented attack by Russian Federation on the territory of the United Kingdom".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Reuters that Moscow would take reciprocal action to expel British diplomats from the country.

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Boris Johnson has taken the war of words with Russian Federation one step further by suggesting that Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

Meanwhile, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has said that Johnson's accusation against the Russian president was unforgivable.

Alexander Shulgin, Russia's envoy at the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has said in televised remarks that the nerve agent used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4 may have come from British or US stockpiles. A report in the Telegraph says it was put in the suitcase of Skripal's daughter before she left Russian Federation for Britain to see her father. Russia's foreign minister said Britain's defense minister "lacks education".

Moscow is also considering its response to the United States after Donald Trump's administration imposed sanctions on Russians allegedly involved in interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections and cyber-attacks.

An 83-year-old Russian whistleblower who helped develop Novichok said in an interview published Friday that a few countries in the world have laboratories powerful enough to develop the nerve agent thanks to a formula he published in 2008. In an unusual joint move Wednesday, the U.S., France and Germany also pointed the finger at Russian Federation.

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Russia's ambassador to Britain said Friday the 23 expulsions will reduce staff at the embassy by about 40 percent. "There is to be no Russophobia as a result of what is happening", he said.

He also responded to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson - who previously said Russian Federation should "go away" and "shut up" - saying: "Maybe he lacks education".

Mr Lavrov said: "I guess he wants to go down in history with some bombastic statements ..."

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn says in a newspaper column that politicians must not "rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police". He was granted refuge in the UK after a high-profile spy exchange between the United States and Russian Federation in 2010.

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