Theresa May warns of new Russian Federation sanctions as 23 United Kingdom diplomats expelled

Putin in Krasnodar

Putin in Krasnodar

"Our priority today is looking after our staff in Russian Federation and assisting those that will return to the United Kingdom", the British Foreign Office said in a statement Saturday reported by Reuters, as the diplomatic staff leaves Moscow.

"Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in Russian Federation, its activity is halted", the foreign ministry said.

After several days of investigation, British authorities determined that they were poisoned with a nerve agent known as Novichok, which is believed to be unique to Russian Federation. The U.K., the U.S., Germany and France accused Russia this week of orchestrating the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a toxic nerve agent on British soil, leaving them critically ill.

- July 2007: Britain expelled four Russian diplomats and hit Moscow with visa restrictions after Moscow refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the main suspect in the murder of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Skripal, who was convicted in Russian Federation of selling state secrets to Britain, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the southern city of Salisbury.

Its retaliatory move came a day before Russians go to the polls for a presidential election in which President Vladimir Putin is expected to win a second consecutive term.

Russia's response does not change the fact that Moscow was in "flagrant breach of worldwide law" and the Chemical Weapons Convention, she said.

Responding the Russia's decision to expel the diplomats, Britain said it had "anticipated" the move.

The United Kingdom's ambassador to Moscow, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the Russian ministry on Saturday to be told of Moscow's decision. She denied the existence of the nerve agent Novichok that Britain said was used against them. An autopsy showed he died from "compression to the neck", the police said in a statement, adding that there was no evidence he had been poisoned or to link his death to the attack on the Skripals.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson upped the stakes Friday when he said it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Putin personally gave the order to use the nerve agent against the Skripals.

"We will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves", he said.

British police said there is no apparent link between the attack on Glushkov and the poisoning of the Skripals, but both have raised alarm in the West at a time when Russian Federation is increasingly assertive on the global stage and facing investigations over suspected interference in the Donald Trump's election as US president.

Sergei Skripal was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006 for spying for Britain, according to Russian state media accounts of the closed hearing.

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