Russia has threatened a retaliation against Britain after 23 of their diplomats were expelled from the country following the Salisbury poisoning row. Theresa May announced the removal of the Russian diplomats on Wednesday. Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, in turn, announced that as a response, British diplomats would be removed from Moscow.
“There will be expulsions. As you understand in diplomatic practice, there will be answers from the Russian side.”
Yakovenko further clarified that this was a standard procedure in diplomacy, saying that “In diplomacy, there is always reciprocity.”
British prime minister Theresa May spoke to the House of Commons regarding the government’s response to the Salisbury poisoning on Wednesday, the Guardian reports. She claimed that the Russian government had responded to the allegations of the poisoning with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance.”
“Their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events. There is no alternative conclusion other than the Russian state was responsible for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter.”
The UK government had given the Russian government a 24-hour deadline to explain the attack on a former spy Sergei Skripal. May had described the attack as an unlawful use of force by Russia against the United Kingdom. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in critical condition after being poisoned by a banned nerve agent during an incident in Salisbury last week. The nerve agent is believed to have been manufactured in Russia.
Theresa May seemed firm in her statement, saying that the British were not going to tolerate the attack on their people or others in their soil by outside agents.
“We will not tolerate the threat to life of British people and others on British soil from the Russian government. Nor will we tolerate such a flagrant breach of Russia’s international obligations.”
The Prime Minister further added that the government was planning to freeze all Russian assets that are proved to be connected to the attack of a UK national or a resident.
“There is no place for these people – or their money – in our country.”
This is the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK since the end of the cold war. Four Russian diplomats were removed in 2007 following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2007. Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko has labeled the UK government’s actions as being “absolutely unacceptable,” He has suggested that the matter of the poisoning should instead be referred to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The Russian embassy in the UK posted a somewhat humorous tweet regarding the matter later that day. The embassy tweeted that the temperature of the Russia-UK relationship had dropped to below 23. Then in a somewhat darker tone, it added that Russians were not afraid of cold weather.