UK: After nerve agent attack on former spy, Theresa May orders 23 Russian diplomats to leave

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday ordered Russian diplomats to leave the country in connection with the attack on a former Russian double agent in Salisbury on March 4, the BBC reported. May said the “undeclared intelligence officers” had a week to leave the United Kingdom. The announcement comes after Moscow rejected its ultimatum to respond to its accusations that Russia was involved in the attack.

This is the biggest expulsion in three decades, Reuters said in an interview. The United Kingdom will freeze all assets owned by Moscow that are perceived as a threat, and minimize its presence in the World Cup organized by Russia.

May asked Moscow to explain why a Russian-made nerve agent was used in the attack on the former spy Sergei Skripal. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had said that he would have to conclude that there was an “illegal use of force” by Moscow if they did not respond on Tuesday night.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected statements about Russia’s role in the attack. Lavrov said Russia’s requests to see samples of the nerve agent had been rejected and, according to him, violated the chemical weapons convention that bans the production, storage and use of chemical weapons. He said that under the convention, Moscow has 10 days to respond to an official accusation.

The attack
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious in a bank outside Maltings Mall in Salisbury. Both, and a police officer who first responded to them, are said to be in serious condition in the hospital. The police said the substance that made them critically ill was a nerve agent.

Health officials in the United Kingdom asked hundreds of people on Sunday to visit a restaurant and pub where the attack occurred to wash their clothes and clean personal items such as wallets and phones, should the substance come in contact with them.