United Kingdom mulls Russian request for access to Yulia Skripal

Hugh Fox
April 2, 2018

On Friday, the UK's ambassador to Moscow was told London had one month to cut its diplomatic contingent in Russia to the same size as the Russian mission in Britain.

MOSCOW-Russia will expel US and European diplomats and close the USA consulate general in St. Petersburg in response to measures taken against Russia over its alleged role in the poisoning of a former double agent in England.

President Donald Trump has often appeared reluctant to criticize his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and in a call last week congratulated him on his latest re-election.

On Thursday, March 29, Ministry of Foreign Affairs had communicated to American ambassador, John Huntsman, expulsion of 60 diplomats in addition to closure of American consulate in St. Petersburg.

Earlier this week, more than 20 countries, including the United States, announced they would expel Russian diplomats in support of Britain, who accused Russia of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury.

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Russia is also expelling four Polish diplomats as a tit-for-tat response to Warsaw's expulsion of Russian diplomats, Poland's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

These diplomats were told reciprocal expulsions and delivered notes of protest for ir "unfounded demands" based on "an unsubstantiated accusation of Britain in relation to Russian Federation in so-called" case Skripal.

After taking action against Russia, Mr Varadkar insisted he had not undermined Ireland's neutrality.

Russia's move, in particular against the United States, "is a minor escalation", said Alexander Gabuev, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center and a former foreign policy correspondent for Kommersant.

At latest count, 59 more diplomats were expelled Friday, from 23 different countries.

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Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that Moscow would eject the same number of diplomats as the Russian envoys other countries had kicked out in response to the nerve-agent attack, which Russia denies it was behind.

The expulsions precisely mirrored steps taken by Western governments against Russian diplomats and appeared to show Russia was not seeking to escalate the standoff over the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England, on March 4.

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that meant Britain would have to cut "a little over 50" additional diplomats in Russian Federation.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter have been in hospital since March 4 after being poisoned in an attack in Britain that London and its major Western allies blame on Russian Federation. Skripal remains in a critical but stable condition but his daughter's condition was said to be improving.

Earlier, Washington had ordered 60 Russia diplomats to leave the country and shut down the Russian consulate general in Seattle.

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An Associated Press reporter on Friday saw consulate staff carrying boxes from the building and loading them into a van. The statement did not mention North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which is expelling seven Russians.

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