Knew this was coming, says UK on Russia expelling diplomats

“In light of Russia’s previous behaviour, we anticipated a response of this kind and the National Security Council will meet early next week to consider next steps,” said a foreign office spokesperson.

world Updated: Mar 17, 2018 19:17 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Russia spy poisoning,Russia UK row,Russia expels diplomats
Police officers escort an army truck, carrying a freight container laden with the car of Sergei Skripal, as it is driven from the Churchfields industrial estate in Salisbury, southern England on Friday as part of investigations in connection with the poisoning of the former Russian spy.(AFP)

Britain said on Saturday that Russia expelling 23 of its diplomats did not “change the facts” of the March 4 poisoning of a former spy in Salisbury, as pressure grew on the Theresa May government to clamp down on wealthy Russians.

Scotland Yard said it had started contacting Russian exiles living in the UK as it launched a murder investigation into the death of 68-year-old Russian businessman Nikolay Glushkov in London on March 12.

After the expulsion of 23 British diplomats was announced in Moscow, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “In light of Russia’s previous behaviour, we anticipated a response of this kind.

“Russia’s response doesn’t change the facts of the matter – the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable. It is Russia that is in flagrant breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Prime Minister Theresa May also responded defiantly to the tit-for-tat move, which followed Britain’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and the suspension of high-level contacts. May told a forum of her Conservative Party that Britain had “anticipated a response of this kind” and that it “will consider our next steps in the coming days, alongside our allies and partners”.

The Foreign Office spokesperson added, “We have no disagreement with the people of Russia and we continue to believe it is not in our national interest to break off all dialogue between our countries but the onus remains on the Russian state to account for their actions and to comply with their international obligations.”

Russia has said it would halt the activities of the British Council and shut down a consulate in St Petersburg, but the missions in Moscow and Ekaterinburg would remain open.

The crisis erupted after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to a Soviet-designed military grade nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4, leaving them in critical condition. Russia has denied involvement in the incident.

Meanwhile, the counter-terrorism command of Scotland Yard said a murder investigation had been launched following the results of an autopsy on Glushkov, which revealed the cause of death was compression to the neck.

“As a precaution, the command is retaining primacy for the investigation because of the associations Mr Glushkov is believed to have had…At this stage there is nothing to suggest any link to the attempted murders in Salisbury, nor any evidence that he was poisoned,” the Yard said in a statement.

Labour and Liberal Democrats MPs demanded that Russian politicians and oligarchs should be forced to disclose their property assets in the UK and face sanctions if they could not explain where their money came from.

First Published: Mar 17, 2018 16:58 IST