UK to expel Russian envoys, freeze assets

Eileen GuzmanMar 24, 2018

The spy poisoning row escalated on Thursday as the leaders of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint statement to blame Russia for a chemical attack on a former Russian spy, a charge denied by Moscow.

In a rare joint statement, May and U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "there is no plausible alternative explanation" to Russian responsibility for the poisoning.

On March 4, a former double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were found unresponsive in the small English city of Salisbury.

Russian Federation has refused Britain's demands to explain how Novichok, a nerve agent first developed by the Soviet military, was used to strike down Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the southern English city of Salisbury.

Speaking to reporters after his administration announced new sanctions on Russian entities for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Trump said the United States is taking the nerve agent attack "very seriously".

Putin discussed relations with Britain at a meeting of Russia's Security Council, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

Russian Federation has denied that it had anything to do with the poisoning, which has left Mr Skripal and his daughter still fighting for their lives and a police officer who helped them seriously ill.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya was very pointed in his own comments at the United Nations, complaining that Britain was speaking in ultimatums and that Russia will not "be spoken to in that language" by anyone.

The statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more "unfriendly" moves toward Russian Federation.

While the West unites against Russian Federation, some analysts argue Putin's popularity could enjoy a boost ahead of Sunday's presidential elections where he is on track to become the nation's longest-serving ruler since Josef Stalin.

In a sign of just how tense the relationship has become, British and Russian ministers used openly insulting language while the Russian ambassador said London was trying to divert attention from the difficulties it was having managing Britain's exit from the European Union.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the defense alliance stood ready to provide support to Britain. "I though she might pussyfoot around, but she hasn't", said Samantha Smith, 22 who works for a product design firm in Salisbury.

Moscow says it will soon expel British diplomats in retaliation for the expulsion of 23 of its own diplomats from Britain - but what else might it do?

"Russia's likely involvement is absolutely unacceptable and needs to be condemned in the strongest terms", he said.

"It threatens the security of us all", the statement read.

The UK will also create a new chemical weapons "defence centre", Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has said.

But he says Russian Federation has "begun preparing retaliatory measures". The Americans include members of the diplomatic corps, the military and White House staffers.

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