Moscow is expelling 23 British diplomats as it hit back against Theresa May in a diplomatic row over a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter.
The diplomats are now recognised as persona non grata and have a week to leave the country, the Kremlin said as relations have hit a post-Cold War low.
It also announced that it will no longer allow the UK to open a consulate in St Petersburg and it will close the British Council in Russia.
Britain’s ambassador, Laurie Bristow, was told of the measures during a brief meeting after being summoned to Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday morning.
Russia’s retaliatory measures were expected after the Prime Minister’s decision to kick out 23 Russian diplomats following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal , 66, and his daughter Yulia on British soil.
Russian state media had reported that President Vladimir Putin, who is up for reelection on Sunday, would personally choose the retaliatory measures Moscow takes against the UK.
His response came just days after Mrs May said Russia was “culpable” for the attempted murder of the Skripals using a military-grade Novichok nerve agent.
It’s a type of nerve agent that was developed by the Soviet military decades ago. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that it was involved in the March 4 attack in Salisbury, Wiltshire, which has left the Skripals in a critical condition.
It was the first known offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two.
Mrs May gave the 23 Russians a week to leave London, claiming they were spies working under diplomatic cover.