The UK government hailed the largest collective expulsion of Russian “intelligence officers” in history after the US and several EU members announced a coordinated response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK earlier this month.
In a House of Commons statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that 18 countries have announced their intention to expel more than 100 Russian intelligence officers from their countries, including 15 European Union member states as well as the US, Canada and the Ukraine.
“This is the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history… Together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values,” May said.
The UK had found “great solidarity” from allies around the world over the attempted murders of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a deadly Russian-made nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4.
“President Putin’s regime is carrying out acts of aggression against our shared values and interests within our continent and beyond. And as a sovereign European democracy, the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder with the EU and with NATO to face down these threats together,” she said.
Her statement in Parliament came as the US, Canada and European countries announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats from their countries.
Russia, which denies any role in the attack on the Skripals, said it would retaliate to the “provocative gesture”.
“It goes without saying that this unfriendly act by this group of countries will not go without notice and we will react to it,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
EU leaders had agreed last week at a European Council summit in Brussels that it was highly likely Russia was behind the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.
The US has ordered 60 envoys to leave, Canada four, the Ukraine 13 and the EU countries a total of 30.
The US is expelling 48 envoys at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 more at the UN in New York. It has also ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.
UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the “extraordinary international response by our allies stands in history as the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever”.
The UK had expelled 23 Russian diplomats earlier this month in connection with the nerve agent poisoning of the Skripals, who remain in critical condition in hospital.
The police officer who had been exposed to the same poison as part of his investigations, Nick Bailey, was given the all-clear last week and discharged from hospital last Thursday. PTI