THE Prime Minister was considering her next move last night as Russia expelled 23 British diplomats after being blamed for a nerve agent attack on a former spy.
Theresa May warned Britain would respond as tensions between the countries escalated after the Kremlin ordered the expulsions, along with the closure of the British Council in Russia and the British consulate in St Petersburg.
The move comes days after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats – suspected of espionage – after the attempted assassination of a former double agent in Salisbury.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain critically ill after being found unconscious on a bench two weeks ago. Ministers believe they were poisoned with a lethal Russian-made nerve agent called Novichok.
Mrs May said yesterday that retaliation was to be expected, and that Britain would now “consider our next steps”.
She said Russia, which denied involvement in the attack, was in “flagrant breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention”.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed that its actions came “in response to the provocative actions of the British side and groundless accusations” over the Salisbury attack.
It added: “Twenty-three diplomatic staff of the UK Embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and are to be expelled from Russia within a week.”
The British Council, which acts as the UK’s main cultural body overseas, said it was “profoundly disappointed” with the move to close their Russian operations, while Russian politician Vladimir Dzhabarov yesterday warned Britain against escalating the crisis.
The deputy chairman of the Russian foreign affairs committee said: “London must understand it is useless to talk with Russia with such methods.”
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police announced it was launching a murder probe into the death of prominent Kremlin critic Nikolai Glushkov.
A pathologist concluded the 68-year-old Russian businessman died from neck compression, with investigators now reportedly believing he was strangled with a dog lead.
Yesterday, detectives were seen scouring his home in the London suburb of New Malden.