MOSCOW — Russia has expelled 23 British diplomats on Saturday in a carefully calibrated retaliatory move against London, which has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating a nerve toxin attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in southern England.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry ministry issued a statement saying 23 employees of the British embassy in Moscow have been declared personae non gratae.
The Ministry summoned the British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, to a meeting on Saturday morning in central Moscow at its headquarters during which he was informed of the retaliatory measures.
The diplomats must leave within a week. It also announced the operation of the British Council in Russia will be ceased given its ‘unregulated status’.
Russia said it was also shutting down the activities of the British Council, which fosters cultural links between the two countries, and Britain’s consulate-general in St. Petersburg.
The move, which was tougher than expected, followed Britain’s decision on Wednesday to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the attack in the English city of Salisbury which left former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, critically ill in hospital.
Moscow announced the measures on the eve of a presidential election which incumbent Vladimir Putin should comfortably win.
The Foreign Ministry said Moscow’s measures were a response to what it called Britain’s “provocative actions and groundless accusations”.
It warned London it stood ready to take further measures in the event of more “unfriendly steps”.
Relations between London and Moscow have crashed to a post-Cold War low over the Salisbury attack, the first known offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two.
7 killed after Delhi-Bound train derails in Bihar
NEW DELHI — At least seven people have died and 14 others injured after a Delhi-bound train derailed early Sunday morning in Bihar’s Vaishali district.
Eleven coaches of 12487 Seemanchal Express derailed near Sahadai Buzurg at around 3:52 am. Three of the coaches overturned and the high force of the impact destroyed them completely.
The injured are being transported to local hospitals.
The superfast train from Jogbani in Bihar to Delhi’s Anand Vihar Terminal was running at full speed when the accident took place, officials said.
Bodies are believed to be trapped inside one of the affected coaches and the number of dead is likely to rise, local police official said.