Theresa May announced that Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats who are “undeclared intelligence officers”, i.e., spies. The retaliation comes as part of a range of measures in response to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal.
Speaking to parliament, Theresa May said the Russian state was culpable in the nerve agent attack in Salisbury on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and is the reason for the expulsion of 23 diplomats: “All who been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. They have just one week to leave,” she said.
“This will be the single biggest expulsion for over 30 years and it will reflect the fact that this is not the first time the Russian state has acted against our country” she added.
She says Russia’s response “has shown complete disdain” and the country has offered no explanation for the Russian-made novichok nerve agent used in the attack. The PM says the matter has been treated with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”.
The move was among a set of measures announced in retaliation for what Mrs May called the “highly likely” involvement of the Russian state in the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil.
Other highlights from the retaliation include the suspension of some Russian assets, a quasi boycott for the world cup, where no UK officials will be present, a suspension of all high-level contact with Russia, as well as sanctions for human-rights violations.
MAY: U.K. TO EXPEL 23 RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS IN RESPONSE TO ATTACK
MAY: EXPELLED RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS ARE INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS
MAY: EXAMINING NEED FOR NEW COUNTER-ESPIONAGE POWERS
MAY: WILL LOOK INTO SANCTIONS FOR HUMAN-RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
MAY: WILL FREEZE RUSSIAN ASSETS WHERE POSSIBLE
MAY: WILL USE EXISTING POWERS TO MONITOR TRAVELERS TO U.K.
MAY: NOT IN OUR INTEREST TO BREAK ALL DIALOGUE WITH RUSSIA
MAY: WILL SUSPEND ALL HIGH-LEVEL CONTACT WITH RUSSIA
MAY: NO ATTENDANCE BY OFFICIALS AT WORLD CUP
MAY: NO MINISTERS, ROYAL FAMILY TO WORLD CUP
MAY: SAYS SOME MEASURES AGAINST RUSSIA IT CANNOT DISCLOSE
MAY: WON’T TOLERATE FLAGRANT BREACH OF RUSSIA’S OBLIGATIONS
MAY: WILL GET OPCW TO VERIFY U.K. ANALYSIS OF NERVE AGENT
Furthermore, May said the UK will examine the need for new “counter-espionage” powers and will deploy some measures against Russia which it cannot disclose, although as Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky notes, “a secret response, if one is implied, won’t do May much good. What the public cannot see isn’t happening.”
As a reminder, following Litvinenko’s death several years ago, the UK similarly expelled Russian diplomats, suspended security cooperation, broke off bilateral plans on visas, froze the assets of the suspects and put them on international extradition lists; which makes today’s response comparable.