Russia wants Britain to cut over 50 diplomats as spy crisis deepens
Moscow targets 23 other countries in the biggest wave of tit-for-tat expulsions
there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable,” it said.
More than 150 Russian diplomats have been ordered out of the US, EU members, NATO countries and other nations.
On Friday, Russia expelled diplomats from 23 countries — most of them EU member states — in retaliation against the West.
France, Germany, Canada and Poland each said that Russia was expelling four of their diplomats.
Other countries including Australia, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Finland, Lithuania and Norway were also told to pull their envoys.
In the US, 60 Russian diplomats expelled by Washington prepared Saturday to leave the country.
In total, 171 people — diplomats which Washington alleges are “spies” and their families — were set to leave the US, Moscow’s envoy Anatoly Antonov told Russian reporters in Washington.
The Russian government provided two planes for the evacuation and one of them will make a brief stopover in New York to collect 14 families, he added, according to TASS state news agency.
US media showed footage of a Russian government plane on the tarmac at Washington’s Dulles airport, apparently getting ready to take the expelled Russians home.
Britain has said it is “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the Skripal attack using the Novichok nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, but Russia has angrily denied any involvement.
Britain has suspended high-level diplomatic contact with Moscow and said it would not be sending any members of its royal family to the 2018 football World Cup hosted by Russia.
Russia responded by expelling 23 British diplomats, closing a British consulate in St. Petersburg and halting the activities of the British Council educational and cultural organization.
Britain said on Saturday it was considering Moscow’s request for consular access to Yulia Skripal, while taking into account her wishes.
The 33-year-old came out of critical care on Thursday and was “improving rapidly,” said Salisbury District Hospital.
She is now in a “stable” condition — with the BBC reporting that she was conscious and talking.
“We are considering requests for consular access in line with our obligations under the international and domestic law, including the rights and wishes of Yulia Skripal,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP.
Sergei Skripal, 66, remains in a critical but stable condition.
Skripal sold secrets to Britain and moved there in a 2010 spy swap. His daughter was visiting from Russia.
Men carry boxes and packs out from the US Consulate as a Russian police officer guards the entrance, in St.Petersburg, Russia, on Friday. (AP)