Russian spy poisoning latest: Expelled diplomats head to Moscow

Russia announced the fresh tests amid heightened tensions with the West and as Putin warned Britain not to threaten'a nuclear power

Russia announced the fresh tests amid heightened tensions with the West and as Putin warned Britain not to threaten'a nuclear power

Russian Federation on Saturday announced it is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

The Russian state-run news agency TASS reported that the 23 diplomats Britain said must leave over the poisoning will board a special Aeroflot flight for Moscow with their family members on March 20.

Chizhov pointed out that the United Kingdom chemical weapons research facility, Porton Down, is only eight miles (12 kilometers) from Salisbury, where Sergei Skripal - a former Russian intelligence officer convicted in his home country of spying for Britain- and his daughter were found on March 4.

Worldwide chemical weapons experts took samples Monday of the nerve agent used, which Britain says is the Soviet-developed Novichok.

A British policeman was also poisoned when he went to help them and remains in a serious but stable condition.

President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win a fourth term.

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Britain and other European Union member states of developing similar nerve agents, and said Britain's government is stirring up "media hysteria" around the case to distract attention from troubles in negotiating the country's exit from the EU.

"They're not fooling anybody any more", Johnson told reporters.

Russia announced Saturday it will expel 23 British diplomats and close the British consulate in St. Petersburg as part of its response to London's decision to expel Russian diplomats in an escalating row over the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in Britain earlier this month.

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"One time they say that they never made Novichok, another time they say did make Novichok but all the stocks have been destroyed", he said Monday at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels. It said that it had completed the destruction of its chemical arsenals past year under global oversight.

The Prime Minister chaired a National Security Council meeting, with her spokesman saying other measures were still being considered and could be deployed at "any time".

The European Union on Monday condemned Skripal's poisoning, and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson dismissed Moscow's denials as absurd.

But Russian presidential contender Ksenia Sobchak, a former TV star who is the only candidate to openly criticize Putin, said blame did not lie entirely with Britain.

Speaking on Russia-24 television, Zakharova said Britain's angry reaction is connected to the war in Syria.

Tests to independently verify the British findings are expected to take at least two weeks, Britain's Foreign Office said.

It appears as though the investigation is now focusing on the vehicle that carried Sergei Skripal's daughter Yulia from the airport, however police say they are probing all "movements" of the Skripals. The British diplomats have a week to leave. The focus is on the movement of the Skripals in the hours before they were found unconscious.

"In case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures - this is what the British Ambassador was told on Saturday", he said.

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