Theresa May expels 23 Russian diplomats from UK over spy poisoning allegations

Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. (PA via AP)

Theresa May has expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the UK in response to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal.

The Prime Minister said that the UK was suspending high-level contacts with Russia and that dignitaries, including members of the royal family, will not attend this summer’s World Cup.

The midnight deadline set by Mrs May for Russia to provide an explanation over the poisoning of Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia passed without a response being offered by Moscow.

The PM told MPs that it was “not in our national interest to break off all dialogue between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation, but in the aftermath of this appalling act against our country this relationship cannot be the same”.

Investigators in protective clothing near Salisbury, England. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

She announced the suspension of “all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation”.

This includes the revocation of an invitation for foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to visit the UK, said Mrs May.

And she said: “There will be no attendance by ministers or indeed members of the Royal Family at this summer’s World Cup in Russia.”

MRs Map told the Commons Russia had ‘demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events’ and that Moscow had offered ‘no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent’.

‘They have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance,’ she said.

‘There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.’

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President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow that Russia had “no connection” to the Skripal poisoning and “won’t accept the language of ultimatum” from the UK.

According to Russian news agency Tass, Mr Peskov said: “Moscow’s stance is well-known, London was told about Moscow’s position through diplomatic channels. Moscow has no connection to the incident that took place in the United Kingdom.

“Moscow won’t accept absolutely unfounded accusations against it, which are not substantiated by any evidence, and won’t accept the language of ultimatum.”

Mr Peskov said Russia was “open for co-operation” in investigating the incident, but had not received any “mutual readiness” from the UK.

“We hope that common sense will prevail and that other countries will at least stop to think if there is any proof or there is none, and if reproaches against Moscow have grounds to rely on,” he said.

“Common sense prompts and demonstrates that no grounds for charges can exist.”