Expelled Russian diplomats leave UK

Marco Green
March 20, 2018

Britain's National Security Council is considering the latest developments in the case and how to respond to Russia's reaction to the expulsion of the diplomats.

Twenty three expelled Russian diplomats and their families flew out of London on an Ilyushin-96 plane on Tuesday.

The Czech Foreign Ministry has summoned Russia's ambassador over Moscow's claims that the nerve toxin used against a former Russian double agent and his daughter in southern England came from the Czech Republic.

The move comes more than two weeks into the fallout surrounding the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy and current British citizen, and his daughter earlier this month. Moscow is awaiting almost two dozen Russian diplomats ordered to leave Britain as part of a standoff over the nerve agent attack.

A small crowd gathered outside the Russian Embassy in London on Tuesday, as the almost two dozen Russian diplomats returned to their country under a mandate from the British government.

The departure of the diplomats follows the arrival in the United Kingdom of inspectors from the world's chemical weapons watchdog.

British police investigators say it may take months to complete the widening inquiry.

Meanwhile, the head of counter-terrorism policing in the UK, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, said the focus of the Salisbury investigation is "on the movements of the Skripals". "What I'm saying is the weapons were made from Russian Federation, clearly", he said. "Sure. And I'd challenge him on human rights in Russian Federation, challenge him on these issues and challenge him on that whole basis of that relationship", he told the BBC.

Investigators from the global Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Britain on Monday to collect samples of the nerve agent.

Testing in global laboratories is expected to take at least two weeks.

He told Radio 4's World At One: "All fingers point towards Russia's involvement in this, and obviously the manufacture of the material was undertaken by the Russian state originally".

Also on Tuesday, a Russian scientist told state media that he worked on an official programme to produce Novichok, contradicting Moscow's claims it never developed the nerve agent.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom immediately denied the suggestion on Twitter, labeling it as unacceptable and unfounded.

"The message is clear: we will hunt you down, we will find you and we will kill you - and though we will scornfully deny our guilt, the world will know that Russian Federation did it", he wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

A British policeman is still in a serious but stable condition.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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