Russian diplomats expelled from London in retaliation for ex-spy poisoning

World Today

People carrying luggage leave the Russian Embassy in London on March 20, 2018 and board a van bearing diplomatic plates. (AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

The farewell speeches were made, the bags packed and 23 Russian diplomats were officially kicked out of Britain. Their work for Russia was forced to continue elsewhere.

CGTN’s Dan Ashby reports from Moscow.

Follow Dan Ashby on Twitter @danielashby

“There will be delays in the issuing of the visas, we’ll have delays making up the papers for the Russian citizens. It’s becoming a bit more complicated to work here in the U.K., but this is the new reality,” Russian Ambassador to Britain Alexander Yakovenko said.

The Russian diplomats and their families were expelled because the U.K. believes Russia used a chemical weapon on British soil. The weapon poisoned defector spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Moscow expressed its outraged at the accusation, expelling 23 British diplomats from its embassy in response.

The British embassy is keeping the identities of those being expelled and the time of their departure a secret at the time. Russia’s response is designed to curtail the spread of British values in Moscow.

The country’s increasing isolation from the European Union raises the risks of bigger fall-outs in the future. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the poison attack, but one of Moscow’s top journalists said he believes Putin is trying to calm things down.

“Normally we would suppose there should be some retaliation after a high-top official like Boris Johnson comes out with a statement like that. And we’ve seen none. Probably there are some barriers that the Kremlin does not want to cross and does not want to escalate more than it has already escalated,” Journalist Mikhail Fishman said.

The British-Russian relationship has plunged to its lowest point since the Cold War, and there’s no sign the downward spiral has hit rock-bottom.