Russian Federation retaliates against Britain by expelling diplomats over ex-spy's poisoning

Home Secretary Amber Rudd visits the Maltings area of Salisbury after the attempted murder of ex Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday announced a series of measures against Russian Federation over its failure to respond to demands by the British government to explain how a military-grade nerve agent was used in the spy attack.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had not accepted an invite to visit Britain, a ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday, after British Prime Minister Theresa May that the invite was withdrawn.

Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said earlier on Wednesday that Russia completed the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles previous year under the convention.

Since then, British officials have determined it is "highly likely" Moscow was behind what they describe as a chemical attack, in part because they have determined the nerve agent that was used is from the Novichok group of chemical weapons developed by Russian Federation during the Cold War.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said Russian Federation is guilty of attempted murder on British soil.

Tensions between the West and Russian Federation have heightened as Moscow continued to plan its response to Theresa May's expulsion of diplomats.

He added: "Russia is a great country".

Russian Federation has called the charges "groundless accusations" and says British authorities have refused to provide samples of the nerve agent used.

Some Russia experts said the measures announced by May were unlikely to make Russian President Vladimir Putin's government change its behavior.

An 83-year-old Russian whistleblower who helped develop Novichok said in an interview published Friday that a few countries in the world have laboratories powerful enough to develop the nerve agent thanks to a formula he published in 2008.

Britain blames Russian Federation for the nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were found unconscious in the British city of Salisbury on March 4 and remain in critical condition.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the incident was "of great concern" amid reports that Britain was consulting NATO allies about possibly invoking its Article 5 principle of common defence.

Skripal was granted refuge in the United Kingdom following a 2010 spy exchange between the US and Russian Federation.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Britain has offered "baseless accusations which are not backed up by any evidence".

Russian Federation has insisted it is ready to cooperate in investigating the attack in Salisbury if Britain reciprocates by sharing the evidence it holds. He suggested the Trump administration had timed the sanctions to come ahead of this weekend's presidential election in Russian Federation, in which President Vladimir Putin is expected to win an overwhelming victory.

Nauert - who was elevated to acting undersecretary after the firing of Steve Goldstein, himself collateral damage of the Tillerson dismissal - went on to say, "This latest action by Russian Federation fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russian Federation disregards the global rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes".

The veteran diplomat, 67, fell as he came on stage at the Russian Federation the Land of Opportunities forum amid escalating tensions over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skirpal in Salisbury.

- In January, 2006 Moscow said it had uncovered four British spies who enjoyed diplomatic status and engaged in the alleged illegal funding of pro-democracy and human rights groups.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's office said that Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull joined her in condemnation of the attack.

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