Russian diplomat hints UK lab could be nerve agent source

Russian diplomat hints UK lab could be nerve agent source

The row A nerve agent attack in Britain on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, both still critically ill in hospital.

It also said it would close the British Council in Russian Federation, which promotes cultural ties between the nations, and the British Consulate in St Petersburg.

Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former colonel in Russia's military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia Skripal, were found dead slumped on a bench in a British shopping district in Salisbury earlier this month. Putin has cast his country as a fortress besieged by hostile Western powers with him as its defender, and state media is likely to portray the anti-British move in that context.

But Russian presidential contender Ksenia Sobchak, a former TV star who is the only candidate to openly criticize Putin, said blame did not lie entirely with Britain.

"That fact demonstrates the most telling difference between Britain and Putin: we have friends across the world and he does not".

Russia responded in kind on Saturday, when the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Russia, to tell him that 23 diplomats have one week to leave Russia "in response to the provocative actions of the British side and unsubstantiated accusations", according to a statement.

In retaliation, Kiev said Russians living in Ukraine will not be able to vote as access to Moscow's diplomatic missions will be blocked.

Among the properties that should be targeted, say lawmakers eager for an immediate response to the expulsion of British diplomats, is property owned by companies registered to Russia's first deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov, and the London house worth more than $150 million of oligarch Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea soccer club.

The Sunday Times said the government had warned power companies to strengthen their cyber defenses over fears that Russian Federation could attempt to cause a blackout. This was decided due to "disparity in the number of consulates of the two countries", the statement said.

Russian news agencies cited politicians in Russia's upper house of parliament as welcoming the move to close the British Council, alleging it had been used as a cover by British spies.

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The British Council said it was "profoundly disappointed" at its pending closure.

Russian Federation has complained that Britain has failed to provide any evidence of its involvement in the Salisbury attack and has said it is shocked and bemused by the allegations.

Mr. Skripal's poisoning has set off an angry confrontation between Britain and Russian Federation.

Skripal, who was convicted in Russian Federation of selling state secrets to Britain, and his daughter Yulia, were poisoned in the southern city of Salisbury.

A Russian lawmaker warned Britain against escalating the crisis.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he said: "We had evidence within the last 10 years, Russian Federation has not only investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassinations but has been creating and stockpiling Novichok".

Britain provoked Russia's wrath on Friday by directly implicating Vladimir Putin in the poisoning attack on an ex-double agent, with the Kremlin saying the claims were "shocking and unforgivable". They remain in critical condition.

Yevgeny Roizman, the mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth-largest city, says local officials and state employees have all received orders "from higher up" to make sure the presidential vote turnout is more than 60 percent.

The Russian response took maybe slightly longer than expected but in the end it was largely what the British Government had anticipated and prepared for.

The British authorities have refused to grant access to former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned in Salisbury earlier this month, saying that he is a United Kingdom national, the Russian Embassy in London told TASS.

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