March 22, 2018

Theresa May expels 23 Russian diplomats from UK in response to Salisbury spy poisoning

Theresa May expels 23 Russian diplomats from UK in response to Salisbury spy poisoningTheresa May: UK expelling 23 Russian diplomats PM: All high level contact with Moscow suspended PM: Ministers and Royal family will not attend World Cup PM: Moscow culpable for attempted murder of Sergei Skripal Jeremy Corbyn suggests Tory cuts contributed to spy attack Labour leader's response to PM's statement prompts jeers Russian embassy: UK response 'totally unacceptable' The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers as part of its response to the Salisbury spy poisoning, Theresa May has said. The Prime Minister set out a number of retaliatory measures against Moscow after she said that there was “no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder” of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Mrs May said that no member of the Government will attend the World Cup which is due to start in Russia in June and that no member of the Royal family will attend either.  Meanwhile, Mrs May said that all planned high level contact between the UK and Russia had been suspended. Mrs May also announced that the Government will move to “freeze Russian State assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents”. Theresa May, the Prime Minister Credit: AFP The expelled diplomats will now have one week to leave the country.  She told MPs: “This was not just an act of attempted murder in Salisbury – nor just an act against the UK. “It is an affront to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons and it is an affront to the rules based system on which we and our international partners depend.” Mrs May had given Moscow a Tuesday evening deadline to explain the use of the Russian-made nerve agent Novichok in the Salisbury attack. But she said the Kremlin’s response had “demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events” and that "no credible explanation” had been offered. She said Russia had “treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance”. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, described the attack in Salisbury as an "appalling act of violence". But he was barracked by MPs when he asked Mrs May how she had responded to requests from the Russian government for a sample of the nerve agent used in the attack and as he bemoaned cuts made to the UK's diplomatic network.   Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader Credit: AFP Mrs May told Mr Corbyn that there was a consensus on the situation - it just did not extend to the Labour leader. She said: "It is clear from the conversations I have had with allies that we have a consensus with our allies, it was clear from the remarks that were made by backbenchers across the whole of this House on Monday that there is a consensus across the backbenches of this House. "I am only sorry that the consensus does not go as far as the Right Honourable Gentleman who could have taken the opportunity - as the UK Government has done - to condemn the culpability of the Russian state." Russia's embassy in the UK described the decision to expel 23 diplomats as a "hostile action" and as "totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted". The embassy said in a statement: "All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain." The Prime Minister's statement came amid reports that the Russian embassy in Britain is planning to ask the UK for consular access to Yulia Skripal. Mr Skripal and his daughter remain in a critical condition in Salisbury District Hospital.  3:12PM Senior Russian football official dismisses significance of England World Cup boycott A senior Russian football official has reportedly told the Russian Interfax news agency that it is not that important that British officials will not attend the tournament, which is scheduled to get underway in June.  The official is quoted as saying of the boycott, it is "their problem".  Meanwhile, the RIA news agency reports that the head of the Russian Upper House of Parliament said Russia will react  to Theresa May's statement in a fast, tough and reciprocal way.  2:57PM Foreign Office tells England fans heading to Russia for World Cup not to mention politics The Foreign Office has updated its advice to England football fans heading to Russia in June for the World Cup.  It advises against commenting on political developments.  The statement:   Due to heightened political tensions between the UK and Russia, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment at this time; you’re advised to remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publically on political developments; while the British Embassy in Moscow is not aware of any increased difficulties for British people travelling in Russia at this time, you should follow the security and political situation closely and keep up to date with this travel advice." 2:50PM Russian Foreign Ministry responds to UK revoking invite to Sergey Lavrov Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Theresa May said in her statement that the UK would be suspending "all planned high level bi-lateral contacts between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation". "This includes revoking the invitation to Foreign Minister (Sergey) Lavrov to pay a reciprocal visit to the United Kingdom," she said.  The Russian Foreign Ministry has now responded and said Mr Lavrov had not accepted the invitation anyway.   2:44PM Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman quote in full on Salisbury evidence Mr Corbyn's spokesman refused to say that the Labour leader accepted the Russian state was at fault for the Salisbury attack. He told reporters: "The government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don't. "However, also there is a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly. "So, I think the right approach is to seek the evidence to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibitive chemical weapons." The Labour leader has been given security briefings on the incident. Asked if Mr Corbyn believed Russia was responsible for the attack, the spokesman said Mrs May continued to leave open the possibility that Russia lost control of the nerve agent. 2:15PM Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman casts doubt on Government's Salisbury conclusions Corbyn spokesman casts doubt on conclusion that Russian state attempted to murder the Skripals. “There is a history of WMDs and intelligence which is problematic”— Henry Zeffman (@hzeffman) March 14, 2018  Speaking in the Commons, Mrs May describes the apparent comparison between Salisbury and the events leading up to the Iraq War as "quite wrong and outrageous".  2:05PM Jeremy Corbyn's spokesman: 'It's important to follow the evidence' on Salisbury incident Mr Corbyn's spokesman is now briefing the press.  Asked why Corbyn did not explicitly condemn Russia, his spokesman says: "Clearly whoever carried out the attack is responsible for what was a completely heinous and reckless act."— Emily Ashton (@elashton) March 14, 2018 So JC doesn't believe Russia is responsible? "It's important to follow the evidence and to be guided by the evidence" says spox.— Emily Ashton (@elashton) March 14, 2018 The spokesman's comments have now been raised in the Commons where the Prime Minister is still speaking.  Mrs May says she is "surprised and shocked" that Mr Corbyn apparently will not accept the assessment made by UK security services that Russia is to blame for the attack in Salisbury.  1:59PM Labour First Minister of Wales: Robust and proportionate response is right call Fully support the @10DowningStreet statement and proposed actions today. Appalling acts like these cannot be tolerated. A robust and proportionate response is the right call— Carwyn Jones (@fmwales) March 14, 2018 1:51PM Gavin Williamson welcomes Nato support Nato issued a statement earlier today (see update at 12.20) calling on Russia to answer the UK's questions about the use of the Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury. Mr Williamson, the Defence Secretary, has now responded.  He said: "I strongly welcome Nato's statement of support following the disgraceful use of a military-grade nerve agent on UK soil. "Nato is the foundation of UK and Euro-Atlantic defence and security. Our friends and allies stand with us in solidarity, proving this horrifying attack is a blatant breach of international rules and agreements." 1:38PM Labour MPs back Theresa May's Salisbury response  Labour MP Ben Bradshaw takes another dig at Corbyn - tells the PM that "most of us" on the Labour benches support her tough action on Russia sanctions— Matt Dathan (@matt_dathan) March 14, 2018 Labour MP Ben Bradshaw takes aim at Corbyn: “Can I assure the prime minister that most of us on these benches support the measures” she announced today against Russia #skripal— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) March 14, 2018 Former Labour chair of the foreign affairs committee Mike Gapes: ‘the PM's words were appropriate, measured and correct and she has my full support.’— Ned Simons (@nedsimons) March 14, 2018 Only one person has disagreed with May’s statement so far: Jeremy Corbyn. None of his backbench allies have got a look in yet.— Isabel Hardman (@IsabelHardman) March 14, 2018 Labour MP Pat McFadden goes in even harder, suggests Corbyn is not fit to lead: "Responding with strength and resolve when your country is under threat is an essential component of political leadership. There is a Labour tradition that understands that."— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) March 14, 2018 1:32PM Nicola Sturgeon responds to Theresa May's Russia statement Russia’s actions cannot be tolerated. Proportionate but firm response right. Support PM’s initial actions, though future legislation will require careful scrutiny. Key point - Russia cannot unlawfully kill/attempt to kill on our streets with impunity.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) March 14, 2018 1:27PM Russian embassy: UK response 'totally unacceptable' The Russian embassy in the UK has issued a statement in response to the Government's decision to expel 23 diplomats from Britain. The statement said: "We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted. "All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain." 1:04PM Theresa May criticises Jeremy Corbyn over Russia response Mrs May tells Mr Corbyn that "this is not a question of diplomacy... this is a question of the culpability of the Russian state".  She then responds to Mr Corbyn's call for a consensus to be found on the issue. She says: "It is clear from the conversations I have had with allies that we have a consensus with our allies, it was clear from the remarks that were made by backbenchers across the whole of this House on Monday that there is a consensus across the backbenches of this House. "I am only sorry that the consensus does not go as far as the Right Honourable Gentleman who could have taken the opportunity - as the UK Government has done - to condemn the culpability of the Russian state." 12:57PM Jeremy Corbyn: Essential to maintain robust dialogue with Russia  The Labour leader asks Theresa May if she has sent the Kremlin a sample of the nerve agent, as it has requested.  He asks the Prime Minister "what conversations she has had if any with the Russian government" and says that it is "essential to maintain a robust dialogue with Russia".   He then bemoans cuts to the UK's diplomatic capacity which prompts jeers and shouts from MPs. Very uncomfortable statement from Corbyn - repeats his call for robust dialogue with Russia - lots of barracking— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 14, 2018 Tory Minister Claire Perry just shouted across to Corbyn: “You’re a disgrace to your party.” #russia#salisbury— Ben Glaze (@benglaze) March 14, 2018 12:48PM Theresa May expelling 23 Russian diplomats from UK  Mrs May announces that the UK is expelling 23 Russian diplomats from the country and that they have one week to leave. She says the UK will seek to "dismantle" the Russian Federation's spy network in the UK.  Meanwhile all planned meetings with Russia have been suspended. The Prime Minister also announces that no ministers will attend the World Cup in Russia. The Royal family will also not be attending, she says.  12:46PM Theresa May: The Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal The Prime Minister is now delivering her statement on the Salisbury spy incident.  She says that "it was right to offer" Russia the chance to explain itself but that the Kremlin had shown "complete disdain for the gravity of these events".  She says Russia has provided "no credible explanation" about how it lost control of the Novichok nerve agent.  She says Russia's response was one of "sarcasm, contempt and defiance".  She says that the only conclusion is that the "Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder" of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.  12:35PM Russian ambassador: UK response to Salisbury 'unacceptable' Alexander Yakovenko has told Sky News the UK's response to the Salisbury incident is "unacceptable" and a "provocation". Speaking after his meeting at the Foreign Office, he said: "I said everything what is done today by the British Government is absolutely unacceptable and we consider this a provocation." He said the UK should "follow international law" and under the rules of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons "they have to present a request to the organisation and then we are happy to consider this within 10 days". The UK's actions were "nothing to do with the situation that we have in Salisbury, we believe this is very serious provocation". Alexander Yakovenko, Ambassador of the Russian Federation Credit: Victoria Jones/PA 12:32PM Russian ambassador to UK summoned to Foreign Office Alexander Yakovenko, Russia's ambassador to the UK, has been summoned to the Foreign Office to be updated on measures to be announced by Theresa May in her statement in the House of Commons this afternoon.  Mr Yakovenko was in a meeting with a senior Foreign Office official immediately before the PM's statement to the House of Commons. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was in the House to hear the PM's statement. 12:29PM Donald Tusk: Spy poisoning to be discussed at European Council meeting  The meeting of the EU Council next week had already been billed as significant with the bloc due to discuss and sign off the terms of the Brexit transition period.  Now it also looks like the meeting will consider the Salisbury spy incident.  I express my full solidarity with PM @theresa_may in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow. I’m ready to put the issue on next week’s #EUCO agenda.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 14, 2018 12:26PM Emergency meeting of UN Security Council scheduled for Wednesday evening The Foreign Office's call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council has been granted.  The meeting on the Salisbury spy incident will take place at 7pm UK time.  12:20PM Nato calls on Russia to 'address the UK's questions' on Salisbury incident Away from PMQs: The UK briefed the North Atlantic Council today on the Salisbury incident and Nato has now put out a lengthy statement.  The key bit: Nato says Russia must "address the UK's questions" on what happened in the city in Wiltshire and provide "full and complete disclosure" about the Novichok nerve agent programme.  "Allies expressed deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory since NATO’s foundation. "Allies expressed solidarity with the UK, offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation, and called on Russia to address the UK’s questions including providing full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. "Allies agreed that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements." Breaking - All 29 NATO countries 'called on Russia to address the UK’s questions' in joint statement on poisoning of ex-spy - @AFP— Danny Kemp (@dannyctkemp) March 14, 2018 12:16PM Jeremy Corbyn tells Theresa May to 'get a grip' on NHS funding Mr Corbyn asks Mrs May if she is suggesting that "it is only she that knows best about the NHS" as he cites the concerns of doctors and nurses.  Mrs May says the Government "is putting more money into the health service" and that you need a strong economy to continue to do so as she suggests that a Labour government would put the UK economy at risk.  Theresa May addresses the House of Commons during PMQs Credit: PA But Mr Corbyn hits back and says Mrs May needs to "get a grip" and provide sufficient funding for the NHS.  Mrs May says funding for the NHS is at "record levels".  12:12PM Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn pay tribute to Stephen Hawking before clashing over NHS Both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May pay tribute to Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned physicist, who has died at the age of 76.  They also both condemn the abuse of a number of Muslim MPs who have been sent suspicious packages and what Mr Corbyn describes as "vile messages" in recent days. Mr Corbyn then asks the Prime Minister about the NHS. He asks why the UK cannot meet its A&E target of dealing with 95 per cent of cases within four hours.  Jeremy Corbyn leading again on the NHS. Says February was the worst month ever for A&E and leaders saying NHS is now unable to meet constitutional targets for the first time ever #PMQs— Jon Vale (@JonValePA) March 14, 2018 Mrs May says "we do have more doctors working in accident and emergency, we have put more money in" to ensure that departments can provide the treatment that people need.  Mr Corbyn says the A&E target will not be met until 2019 as he raises concerns expressed by NHS officials.  Corbyn now asking why yesterday’s spring statement didn’t include more money for the NHS. To be fair, it didn’t really include anything.— Isabel Hardman (@IsabelHardman) March 14, 2018 He says the NHS is "clearly in crisis" as he asks why no more money was made available for the health service at the spring statement yesterday.  Mrs May says the UK has already taken action to allocate extra funding for the NHS.  12:04PM Theresa May: UK stands by Brexit commitments agreed in December The Prime Minister is now on her feet in the House of Commons and she confirms that she will be delivering a statement on Salisbury immediately after PMQs.  Mrs May is asked by Tory MP Alex Burghart to confirm that the UK remains committed to the Brexit withdrawal deal it struck with the EU in December, particularly on the issue of the Northern Ireland border.  The Prime Minister insists Britain does "stand by all of the commitments we made in December".  12:01PM Foreign Office calls for urgent meeting of UN Security Council over Salisbury incident The UK has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to update Council members on the investigation into the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.— Foreign Office ���� (@foreignoffice) March 14, 2018 11:59AM Theresa May leaves Downing Street for PMQs Theresa May, the Prime Minister Credit: Frank Augstein/AP The Prime Minister is due in the House of Commons shortly for her weekly grilling by MPs at PMQs.  However, today's edition is likely to be overshadowed by what is expected to follow with Mrs May due to deliver a statement immediately afterwards on the latest on the Salisbury spy incident.  The PM is widely expected to outline retaliatory measures against Russia after the Kremlin failed to meet Mrs May's deadline last night of explaining how a Russian-made nerve agent came to be used in Salisbury. 

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