West asks Russian Federation to explain Skripal attack

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gives a Foreign Policy speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC on day three of his week long visit to the United States of America. Niall Carson  PA Wire

Russia will "certainly" expel British diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to Britain's decision to send 23 Russians home over the poisoning of a former spy, the foreign minister said Thursday.

Asked if the developing response to the Salisbury attack could see the Government lead a boycott of the World Cup, Mr Southgate said: "I think it is a matter that is completely out of my control".

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remain in a hospital in critical condition following the March 4 incident.

The White House on Wednesday night issued its first statement identifying Russian Federation as the main culprit behind a series of attacks and nerve agent poisonings targeting former spies living in the United Kingdom.

Trump spoke to British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday and he says their two governments "are in deep discussions", about next steps.

"[This is] something that should never, ever happen", he added.

File image of British prime minister Theresa May. Russian Federation denies any role in the poisoning and has vowed to retaliate against Britain for the expulsions. In remarks carried by the RIA Novosti news agency, Lavrov said the move would come "soon".

The four nations called on Russian Federation to provide full and complete disclosure of its Novichok nerve agent program to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg offered "practical support" if May's government requests it, saying the attack "has no place in a civilized world".

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday reiterated Moscow's position that Britain's accusations were unfounded and that the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter had "all the signs of a provocation".

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He also said that the matter won't disrupt the March 18 presidential election that Putin - who is popular in part because of his defiance of the West and who has stepped up control over Russian politics over almost two decades in power - seems certain to win.

"We consider the British position absolutely irresponsible with regard to diplomatic relations, as well as final goals and interests of a real investigation and search for the people who are behind this and from the point of view of violation of the worldwide law by the British side, which is also obvious", Peskov said.

2003: Skripal leaves the Russian Foreign Ministry and becomes a businessman.

Russian Federation today retaliated, announcing it will remove British diplomats from its ranks and the British position was irresponsible. "It threatens the security of us all", the statement said.

In separate interview with BBC television and BBC radio, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on March 15 defended the measures as the British government is under pressure from lawmakers and media to show it was getting tough on Russian Federation.

"This despicable attack will have consequences and the President will act firmly with his partners", a presidential source said.

Russian Federation said it would respond soon.

"Now is the moment for Putin to jam the lid down and send a message to people: 'You do this, you're going to die, '" he added.

Skripal is working as a Russian military intelligence officer when the United Kingdom recruits him to pass state secrets on to MI6, the U.K.'s foreign intelligence service, according to media reports.

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