Saturday, 18 August, 2018

Nerve agent row: Russian Federation expels 23 British diplomats amid increasing tensions

Steffen Kugler  Bundesregierung Steffen Kugler Bundesregierung
Nellie Chapman | 17 March, 2018, 21:38

"We remain committed to the development of long-term people-to-people links with Russian Federation as we do in over 100 other countries". "Any reference or mentioning of our president is nothing else but shocking and unpardonable diplomatic misconduct".

Britain says it has invited Russian Federation to cooperate in the investigation and that this invitation hasn't been taken up.

Russia is set to expel British diplomats in retaliation for Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to kick out 23 Russians as relations with London crashed to a post-Cold War low over an attack involving a military-grade nerve agent on English soil. May said Britain would also freeze Russian state assets wherever there is evidence of a threat and seek to strengthen its power to impose sanctions over human rights violations.

Mrs May has said the United Kingdom will expel 23 Russian diplomats as part of a "full and robust" response - prompting Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to say it will "certainly" expel British diplomats in response.

In another foreign response, New Zealand said on March 16 that it was putting plans to pursue a free-trade deal with Russian Federation on hold.

"The message is clear: We will find you, we will catch you, we will kill you - and though we will deny it with lip-curling scorn, the world will know beyond doubt that Russian Federation did it". "This use of chemical weapons is a clear violation of the worldwide law", he said.

The closure of the British Council's Moscow office will sever cultural ties, while that of the consulate-general in St Petersburg will end Britain's diplomatic presence in Russia's second city.

Meanwhile, Russian authorities said they have opened their own investigation into what they also classified as the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal, 33, who they said is a Russian citizen.

"The Met Police's Counter Terrorism Command, which has led the investigation from the outset, is now treating Mr. Glushkov's death as murder", the statement said.

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

"If the latter, a connection to Russian mafia-like groups that have been allowed to gain a toehold in Britain can not be excluded", he said. "Respective procedures will be followed in accordance with worldwide legal practice".

The March 14 statement made by British Prime Minister Theresa May in Parliament on measures to "punish" Russian Federation, under the false pretext of its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter, constitutes an unprecedented, flagrant provocation that undermines the foundations of normal dialogue between our countries.

In Moscow, Ksenia Sobchak, a 36-year-old TV host who has campaigned on a liberal platform and criticized Putin's policies, announced the creation of a new political party late Thursday. He accused Russian Federation of "ripping up the worldwide rulebook" and "attempting to "subvert, undermine and influence" countries around the world".

"We have said on different levels and occasions that Russian Federation has nothing to do with this story", he said. Glushkov, 68, was discovered dead on Monday in south-west London. 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.