Three buses with diplomatic number plates left the Russian embassy in London on Tuesday, as the 23 officials expelled by the Prime Minister over the Salisbury nerve agent attack began their journeys back to Moscow.
The buses left the embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens shortly after 10.30am.
Sky News published pictures of tearful embassy staff waving the diplomats goodbye. Crowds of people were seen waving goodbye as the vehicles drove away.
Embassy staff had earlier attended a farewell reception hosted by ambassador Alexander Yakovenko.
On the day @Amb_Yakovenko said the 23 expelled Russian diplomats would leave the UK, people could be seen holding children, pet carriers, suitcases and bags ahead of this procession leaving the Kensington Palace Gardens compound @ around 10am where the @RussianEmbassy is #Skripalpic.twitter.com/sdl4gUojKh
— Georgina Stubbs (@georginafstubbs)
March 20, 2018
Earlier today, what appeared to be removal vans, were also seen arriving at the embassy.
Theresa May last Wednesday ordered the diplomats to leave Britain after Russia ignored a request for information over the poisoning of former spy, Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, on March 4.
Declaring the diplomats as “undeclared intelligence officers”, May set a deadline of one week, which ends tomorrow.
The father and daughter remain in a critical condition in hospital following their exposure to the lethal nerve agent, Novichok.
Russian news agency, TASS, said the diplomats and their families will travel to Moscow on a special flight operated by its national airline, Aeroflot.
It said in total around 80 people would be on the flight.
Days after May’s announcement, Russia responded by saying it would expel 23 British diplomats and threatened possible “further retaliatory measures”.
The British Council, which promotes British culture internationally, was also closed in Russia, and the country withdrew permission for a British consulate to open in St Petersburg.
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- Theresa May Rejects Putin's Russia Denial Over Salisbury Spy Poisoning