Russian Federation to expel 23 British diplomats, close consulate general in St. Petersburg

Forensic science experts working alongside member of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism team at the home of Sergei Skripal

It said the move was a response to Britain's "provocative actions" and "baseless accusations over the incident in Salisbury on March 4", referring to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, which Britain has blamed on Russian Federation.

"Twenty three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and to be expelled within a week", the country's foreign ministry said in a statement after summoning the British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

The expulsion marks the latest turn in a confrontation between Russia and the United Kingdom following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the southern English town of Salisbury. The Skripals remain in critical condition.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement on Britain's response to a March 4 nerve attack on a former Russian double agent, following a meeting of Britain's National Security Council, in the House of Commons in central London, March 14, 2018.

Speaking to the Russian state-funded RT television network, the ambassador denounced Britain's decision to expel 23 diplomats as "unacceptable and unjustified".

Skripal had taken his daughter, who was on a visit from Moscow, out for lunch in Salisbury before they both collapsed on a bench.

Earlier this week, she told Britain's parliament that either the Russian state was directly responsible for the poisoning or it had allowed a nerve agent to get into hands of others.

Earlier, Theresa May claimed that Russian Federation was highly likely to be involved in Skripal's poisoning. Russian officials have increasingly begun suggesting the attack could have been staged by Britain itself.

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The source of the nerve agent, which Britain says is Soviet-made novichok, is unclear, as is the way it was administered.

Russian Federation insists it had no motive to target Skripal with what Britain says was a highly-potent Soviet-designed nerve agent called Novichok, in the first such attack in Europe since World War II.

London has blamed Moscow and on Friday, even directly implicated Putin in the attack, prompting the Kremlin's fury.

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

London's Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command has said there is no suggestion that Glushkov's death is connected to the poisoning attack, but that they are investigating because "of associations Mr Glushkov is believed to have had".

Relations between Britain and Russian Federation have been strained since the murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 in London in 2006, a killing which a British inquiry said was probably approved by Putin.

On Friday, police said they were treating the March 12 death of exiled businessman Nikolai Glushkov as murder after a post-mortem found he died from "compression to the neck".

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