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

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

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)

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