LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered to expell 23 Russian diplomats on Wednesday over the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil, raising tensions between the two countries to a level not seen since the heights of the Cold War.
Her statement to Parliament came after Moscow rejected a British deadline for Russia to explain itself over this month’s attack on the former spy, Sergei V Skripal, and his daughter.
She vowed to crack down on Russian spies, corrupt elites and ill-gotten wealth in Britain.
Russia,however, denies any involvement in the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who have been in a critical condition in hospital since they were found unconscious on March 4 on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury.
Ms May had given Moscow until midnight on Tuesday to explain how the Soviet-made Novichok nerve agent came to be deployed on the streets of Salisbury, saying either the Russian state was responsible or had lost control of a stock of the substance.
She announced the potential freezing of Russian state assets that pose a security threat, new laws to counter hostile state activity and said British ministers and royals would not attend the football World Cup in Russia later this year.
The two countries have engaged in a worsening clash in recent days, with Britain widening an investigation into the incident and courting friends and allies to increase pressure on Russia, while Moscow has threatened to retaliate over any punitive action.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow would swiftly retaliate against the British measures which had been undertaken for ‘short-sighted political ends’.
“The British Government has made a choice in favour of confrontation with Russia,” it said.
Russian rocket fails in the mid air, crew lands safely
COSMODROME—Booster rocket carrying a Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and US astronaut on board headed for the International Space Station failed in mid-air on Thursday, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing.
U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin landed safely without any harm.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, quoted by Interfax, said the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.
The rocket was launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. A Reuters reporter who observed the launch from around 1 km away said that it had gone smoothly in its initial stage.
“Search and rescue teams are in the air and heading towards the expected touchdown location for the Soyuz spacecraft returning to Earth carrying two crew members,” NASA said in a statement.
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