Questions mount over Russian spy poisoning

FIFA World Cup trophy Source

FIFA World Cup trophy Source

Russian Federation on Saturday summoned the British ambassador to Moscow Laurie Bristow to the foreign ministry for the second time this week.

Britain previously accused Russian Federation of being behind what it has called the "brazen" nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, in Salisbury, England, on March 4.

Ambassador Laurie Bristow spoke Saturday after being called to the Russian Foreign Ministry to be informed that Russia will expel 23 diplomats, a tit-for-tat retaliation to Britain's announcement this week that 23 Russians would be expelled.

The escalating global scandal is unfolding as Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition after exposure to the Soviet-designed chemical Novichok on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury.

Moscow strongly denied any involvement in the poisoning and called Johnson's remarks "shocking" and "inexcusable". The two are still undergoing treatment to recover from the deadly Russian nerve agent.

The crisis has unravelled in the thick of Russia's presidential campaign, with Mr Putin expected to win a fourth Kremlin term on Sunday.

New concerns surfaced Friday about the death this week of a London-based Russian businessman, Nikolai Glushkov, found dead at his south London home on Monday.

British police said Friday 131 people were exposed to trace amounts of the military-grade nerve agent, Novichok, used in the assault.

Russian Federation also suspects foul play in Glushkov's death and opened its own inquiry Friday. The British embassy did not give a time when Bristow was to present himself at the ministry but said he would leave "shortly".

The source of the nerve agent used - which Britain says is Soviet-made Novichok - is unclear.

Top EU diplomats were expected to discuss next steps at a meeting Monday, with some calling for a boycott of the upcoming World Cup in Russian Federation.

Britain's key allies have closed ranks against Mr Putin after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level contacts, among other measures.

Russia's envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told The AP that his country has no stocks of the Novichok group of nerve agents, insisting that Soviet-era research into the agents was totally dismantled before Russian Federation joined the organization.

British police said there is no apparent link between the attack on Glushkov and the poisoning of the Skripals.

Ambassador Alexander Shulgin also sought to shift possible blame, saying Western special agents spirited Russian chemical weapons experts out of the country in the 1990s and work continued on their research. Russia's top agency for major crimes was also investigating the attack on Yulia Skripal, who is a Russian citizen.

An 83-year-old whistleblower who helped develop Novichok said in an interview published Friday that he thinks the Skripals have little chance of surviving, and that only a few countries in the world have laboratories powerful enough to develop the nerve agent.

De Bretton-Gordon dismissed that claim as "complete hogwash".

The Foreign Office says "Russia's response doesn't change the facts of the matter - the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable". "But London must understand that this will not do anything, it is useless to talk with Russian Federation with such methods", Dzhabarov was quoted as saying by the state news agency RIA Novosti.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has summoned the British ambassador to Russian Federation for talks in a heightening dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

In London, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn struck a starkly different tone to that of the British government by warning against rushing into a new Cold War before full evidence of Moscow's culpability was proven.