UK EXPELS 23 Russian Spies, Freezes Assets & Prepares To Punish Putin
One of the largest diplomatic sweeps, the UK has seen
UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has vowed to expel 23 Russian spies and freeze Russian assets as Britain prepares to 'punish' Putin for allegedly poisoning former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, with nerve gas agent in Salisbury last week.
In one of the largest diplomatic sweeps the UK has seen in decades, the Prime Minister gave the 'undeclared intelligence agents' one week to leave Britain as she suspends 'high-level contact' with Russia.
May also vowed to "crackdown" on Russian oligarch money in London, urging the international community to join with the sanctions.
The Russian embassy in London responded last week:
"Media reports create an impression of a planned operation by the Russian special services, which is completely untrue."
They added that the comments from Johnson "Looks like the script of yet another anti-Russian campaign has been already written."
According to RT: Russia said it would not respond to the ultimatum set by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who demanded an explanation for the “poisoning” of the 66-year-old Skripal and his daughter. May's deadline expired on Wednesday at midnight.
A Russian 'chemical weapons' scientist said the deadly nerve gas agent could endanger Britons into developing symptoms in years to come
The DailyMail reports: As relations with Moscow reached new lows in the wake of the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, the premier also suggested that covert reprisals would be undertaken - in an apparent hint at cyber attacks.
Mrs May said she was determined that the package would 'fundamentally degrade Russian intelligence' capability in the UK.
‘They have treated the use of this poison with sarcasm and disdain…There is no other conclusion other than that the Russian state was responsible for the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter,’ Mrs May said.
Britain has made a formal protest at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, slamming Vladimir Putin's regime as 'reckless'.
The government has also called for an urgent meeting of the UN security council.
But Russia immediately threatened to hit back in kind. After being notified of the reprisals at the Foreign Office, ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko branded them a 'provocation' and 'unacceptable'.
‘This will be the single biggest expulsion in over 30 years and it reflects the fact this is not the first time that the Russian state has acted against our country.
‘Through these expulsions we will fundamentally degrade Russian intelligence capability in the UK for years to come. And if they seek to rebuild it we will prevent them from doing so.’
By contrast, just four diplomats were expelled following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
In an apparent reference to the activities of Russian oligarchs, Mrs May said there would be tighter checks on those coming to the country.
'We will also table a government amendment to the Sanctions Bill to strengthen our powers to impose sanctions in response to the violation of human rights,' she said.
'In doing so we will play our part in the international effort to punish those responsible for the sorts of abuses suffered by Sergei Magnitsky.'
Mrs May met her National Security Council this morning, after winning support from allies including the US, Germany and France for reprisals.
US President Donald Trump vowed to back the UK 'all the way' in the stand off when he spoke to Mrs May by telephone last night.
The PM had already secured the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
European Council president Donald Tusk said today that the 'brutal' attack could be put on the agenda for a summit next week.
'I express my full solidarity with PM @theresa_may in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow. I'm ready to put the issue on next week's #EUCO agenda,' he said.
Russia had demanded to see samples of the Novichok substance found in Sergei Skripal's body before it considered responding to Mrs May's midnight deadline.
Moscow's ambassador to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Alexander Shulgin, accused the UK of 'fomenting hysteria'.
'Sooner or later they will have to be held accountable for their lies,' he said.
In an extraordinary series of tweets last night, the Russian embassy to London posted threatening messages accompanied by pictures of what appears to be vials of poison.
But UK ambassador Julian Braithwaite told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this morning that Moscow's behavior was an 'affront'.
'The council and the United Nations General Assembly have decried Russia's violations of international law with alarming regularity,' he said.
'Its reckless behavior is an affront to all this body stands for.'
A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'The UK has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to update Council members on the investigation into the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.'