Britain expels Russian diplomats

Source:AFP - Reuters Published: 2018/3/14 23:08:40

NATO seeks answers on spy poisoning in London

Britain will suspend high-level bilateral contact with Russia and revoke an invitation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday in response to the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain.

"The Russian state was culpable of the attempted murder" of spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, May told lawmakers.

Britain will also expel 23 Russian diplomats, who "have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers," May said, giving them one week to leave the UK in the "single biggest expulsion for over 30 years."

All 29 NATO countries urged Russia Wednesday to answer Britain's questions over the poisoning of an ex-spy in what they called the first ever offensive use of a nerve agent on the alliance's territory.

The joint statement by the 29 member countries of the US-led alliance said the attack against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, southwest England, was a "clear breach of international norms and agreements."

"Allies expressed deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory since NATO's foundation," said the statement by the North Atlantic Council, which groups NATO allies.

"Allies expressed solidarity with the UK, offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation, and called on Russia to address the UK's questions, including providing full and complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," they added.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said a "military grade" nerve agent known as Novichok was used in the March 4 incident.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added in a tweet: "I welcome that the 29 NATO Allies have just agreed a statement expressing full solidarity with the UK and offering support after the Salisbury attack."

The attack has raised speculation that Britain will consider triggering "Article Five" of NATO membership, a rule that says an attack on one member constitutes an attack on all.

EU President Donald Tusk said earlier Wednesday that Russia was "most likely" behind the attack and that leaders of the 28 European Union states were likely to discuss the issue at a Brussels summit next week.

The United Nations Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting on the poisoning later Wednesday at Britain's request.

Britain's expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats is a hostile and unjustified action, Russia's embassy in London said on Wednesday.

"We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and short-sighted," the Russian embassy said in a statement in reaction to the expulsion.

"All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain," it added.

Posted in: EUROPE

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