On Saturday, March 17th, the British Ambassador in Moscow, Laurie Bristow was informed of Russia’s response to the expulsion of diplomatic personnel of the Russian Embassy in London. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website announced that 23 staff members of the British Embassy in Moscow should leave the country within one week.
Russia also withdrew its consent to open the Consulate General of Great Britain in Saint-Petersburg and decided to stop activities of the British Council, the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and education opportunities.
"Great Britain has been warned that if further hostile actions are undertaken against Russia, Russia reserves the right to take other retaliatory measures," the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.
The diplomatic conflict between Russia and the United Kingdom is related to the recent poisoning of Sergei Skripal. In 2006, the former Colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate was convicted in Russia of spying for British Intelligence and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment. In 2010, he was granted asylum in Britain as part of a spy exchange.
On March 4th, 2018, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in the center of the British city of Salisbury. Investigators have established that they were poisoned using a Russian-made nerve agent.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May demanded that the Russian authorities explain how the nerve agent got into Britain. Russia has made no response to the ultimatum after which Britain announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats.
The position of Britain was supported by the authorities of the United States and also its main EU partners: France and Germany. They condemned the attack against Skripal in their joint statement and blamed Moscow for the incident.