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Russia expels 23 British diplomats as nerve agent fallout continues

By Susan McFarland
Russia expels 23 British diplomats as nerve agent fallout continues
Russian flag flies near the Kremlin tower in Moscow on March 16, 2018, on the last permitted campaign day before presidential elections on Sunday. Russia on Saturday announced 23 British diplomats are being expelled In retribution to a dispute over a nerve agent attack. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

March 17 (UPI) -- In retribution to a dispute over a nerve agent attack, Russia on Saturday announced 23 British diplomats are being expelled and threatened that further measures would be taken if the Britain government retaliates against Russia again.

A statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry said it will close the British Council, an organization for cultural education and educational opportunities. The statement also said Russia is ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

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"The British side is warned that in case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures," according to the statement.

The announcement comes on the heels of Britain's directive for 23 Russian diplomats to leave the country because Russia was not cooperating in the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent.

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Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former colonel in Russia's military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia Skripal, were found dead slumped on a bench in a British shopping district in Salisbury earlier this month. Both remain in critical condition.

British Ambassador Laurie Bristow said the appalling attack on Britain used a chemical weapon developed in Russia and not declared at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as Russia is obliged to do under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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"We will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies and our values against an attack of this sort, which is an attack not only on the United Kingdom, but upon the international rules-based system on which all countries, including Russia, depend for their safety and security," Bristow said.

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