UK Expels 23 Russian Diplomats, Freezes Russian Assets, Suspends High-Level Contacts

Update 3:

Some more soundbites out of Russia, via Reuters:

  • RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS OPTED FOR FURTHER ESCALATION BY EXPELLING RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS    
  • RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS BRITISH PM STATEMENT IS A FLAGRANT PROVOCATION    
  • RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS CHOSEN CONFRONTATION WITH RUSSIA 

* * *

Update 2:

The head of the Upper House of Parliament in Russia has called the expulsion of diplomats a "provocation". He has promised Russia will react in a "fast, tough and reciprocal way".

Separately, Angela Merkel said that the EU is united on Russia but must keep talking to Russia. The German chancellor said: "We take the findings of the British government very seriously ... We will present a common European view here.

"Nonetheless, I say we can't break off all contacts now. We must still talk with the Russians despite all differences of opinion."

Julian Assange has also chimed in:

* * *

Update:

As previewed earlier, Theresa May announced that Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats who are "undeclared intelligence officers", i.e., spies. The retaliation comes as part of a range of measures in response to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal.

Speaking to parliament, Theresa May said the Russian state was culpable in the nerve agent attack in Salisbury on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and is the reason for the expulsion of 23 diplomats: "All who been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. They have just one week to leave," she said.

"This will be the single biggest expulsion for over 30 years and it will reflect the fact that this is not the first time the Russian state has acted against our country" she added.

She says Russia's response "has shown complete disdain" and the country has offered no explanation for the Russian-made novichok nerve agent used in the attack. The PM says the matter has been treated with "sarcasm, contempt and defiance".

Echoing what she said earlier, May said that "Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or conceivably the Russian government could have lost control of a military grade nerve agent" and added that "In the aftermath of this appalling act against our country, this relationship cannot be the same."

The move was among a set of measures announced in retaliation for what Mrs May called the “highly likely” involvement of the Russian state in the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil.

Other highlights from the retaliation include the suspension of some Russian assets, a quasi boycott for the world cup, where no UK officials will be present, a suspension of all high-level contact with Russia, as well as sanctions for human-rights violations.

  • MAY: U.K. TO EXPEL 23 RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS IN RESPONSE TO ATTACK
  • MAY: EXPELLED RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS ARE INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS
  • MAY: EXAMINING NEED FOR NEW COUNTER-ESPIONAGE POWERS
  • MAY: WILL LOOK INTO SANCTIONS FOR HUMAN-RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
  • MAY: WILL FREEZE RUSSIAN ASSETS WHERE POSSIBLE
  • MAY: WILL USE EXISTING POWERS TO MONITOR TRAVELERS TO U.K.
  • MAY: NOT IN OUR INTEREST TO BREAK ALL DIALOGUE WITH RUSSIA
  • MAY: WILL SUSPEND ALL HIGH-LEVEL CONTACT WITH RUSSIA
  • MAY: NO ATTENDANCE BY OFFICIALS AT WORLD CUP
  • MAY: NO MINISTERS, ROYAL FAMILY TO WORLD CUP
  • MAY: SAYS SOME MEASURES AGAINST RUSSIA IT CANNOT DISCLOSE
  • MAY: WON'T TOLERATE FLAGRANT BREACH OF RUSSIA'S OBLIGATIONS
  • MAY: WILL GET OPCW TO VERIFY U.K. ANALYSIS OF NERVE AGENT

Furthermore, May said the UK will examine the need for new "counter-espionage" powers and will deploy some measures against Russia which it cannot disclose, although as Bloomberg's Leonid Bershidsky notes, "a secret response, if one is implied, won't do May much good. What the public cannot see isn't happening."

As a reminder, following Litvinenko's death several years ago, the UK similarly expelled Russian diplomats, suspended security cooperation, broke off bilateral plans on visas, froze the assets of the suspects and put them on international extradition lists; which makes today's response comparable.

Commenting on the response, Julian Rimmer, a London-based emerging-markets trader at Investec, said earlier that "there is no way the investment case for Russia cannot be undermined by whatever constitutes a 'full range of measures' from the U.K. PM," and added that "One can dispute the relative impact of the measures once they have been announced, but the net effect, to a greater or lesser extent, can only be detrimental."   

Sure enough, the ruble is sliding on the news.

As are Russian stocks.

Commenting on the action, the Russian ambassador to the UK warned that Britain should expect retaliation for diplomat expulsions Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko tells Sky's Senior Political Correspondent Jason Farrell the UK's actions are "unacceptable" and that Moscow considers the expulsion of Russian diplomats "a provocation".

He says the measures have "nothing to do with the situation that we have in Salisbury".

"This is a really serious provocation."

Sure enough, Interfax reports that a Russian senator is calling for even more British diplomats to be expelled than the 23 Russians the U.K. is ousting.

And just like that the Cold War has made another return, this time in Russian-UK relations.

* * *

Courtesy of SkyNews here are the key excerpts from Theresa May's speech:

It was right to offer Russia the opportunity to provide an explanation

But their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events.

They have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent.

No explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom; no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law.

Instead they have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.

There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter - and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.

This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.

It has taken place against the backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian State aggression across Europe and beyond.

It must therefore be met with a full and robust response.

It is essential that we now come together – with our allies - to defend our security, to stand up for our values and to send a clear message to those who would seek to undermine them.

This morning I chaired a further meeting of the National Security Council, where we agreed immediate actions to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK…

…urgent work to develop new powers to tackle all forms of hostile state activity and to ensure that those seeking to carry out such activity cannot enter the UK…

…and additional steps to suspend all planned high-level contacts between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation.

Let me start with the immediate actions.

Under the Vienna Convention, the United Kingdom will now expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers.

They have just one week to leave.

This will be the single biggest expulsion for over thirty years and it reflects the fact that this is not the first time that the Russian State has acted against our country.

We will fundamentally degrade Russian intelligence capability

We will urgently develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against all forms of hostile state activity.

This will include the addition of a targeted power to detain those suspected of hostile state activity at the UK border. This power is currently only permitted in relation to those suspected of terrorism.

And I have asked the Home Secretary to consider whether there is a need for new counter-espionage power

We will also table a Government amendment to the Sanctions Bill to strengthen our powers to impose sanctions in response to the violation of human rights

We will also make full use of existing powers to enhance our efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK who could be engaged in activity that threatens the security of the UK and of our allies.

So we will increase checks on private flights, customs and freight.

We will 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.

And led by the National Crime Agency, we will continue to bring all the capabilities of UK law enforcement to bear against serious criminals and corrupt elites. There is no place for these people – or their money - in our country.

We have had a very simple approach to Russia: Engage but beware.

And I continue to believe it is not in our national interest to break off all dialogue between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation.

But in the aftermath of this appalling act against our country, this relationship cannot be the same.

So we will suspend all planned high level bi-lateral contacts between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation.

This includes revoking the invitation to Foreign Minister Lavrov to pay a reciprocal visit to the United Kingdom...

…and confirming there will be no attendance by Ministers - or indeed Members of the Royal Family - at this Summer’s World Cup in Russia.

There are some that cannot be shared publicly for reasons of National Security.

And, of course, there are other measures we stand ready to deploy at any time, should we face further Russian provocation.

Many of us looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope. We wanted a better relationship and it is tragic that President Putin has chosen to act in this way.

But we will not tolerate the threat to life of British people and others on British soil from the Russian Government. Nor will we tolerate such a flagrant breach of Russia’s international obligations.

This was not just an act of attempted murder in Salisbury – nor just an act against 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.

We will work with our allies and partners to confront such actions wherever they threaten our security, at home and abroad.

* * *

Earlier:

The UK was braced for a showdown with Russia on Wednesday after a midnight deadline set by Prime Minister Theresa May expired without an explanation from Moscow about how a Soviet-era nerve toxin was used to strike down a former Russian double agent.

Russia, which denied any involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter with Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military, said it was not responding to May’s ultimatum until it received samples of the nerve agent, in effect challenging Britain to show what sanctions it would impose against Russian interests.

“Moscow had nothing to do with what happened in Britain. It will not accept any totally unfounded accusations directed against it and will also not accept the language of ultimatums,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday according to Reuters. He added, however, that Russia remained open to cooperating with Britain in investigating the poisoning, blaming the British authorities for refusing to share information.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported the Russian embassy in London planned to ask for consular access to Yulia Skripal, Sergei’s daughter.

Britain’s response to the expiry of the deadline and lack of explanation from Moscow was expected to be announced by May in parliament later, after May convened a meeting of the National Security Council at her Downing Street office in the morning. Furthermore, Bloomberg reported that the U.K. 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, the U.K. Foreign Office said in a tweet.

In retaliation, it is possible that London could call on Western allies for a coordinated response, freeze the assets of Russian business leaders and officials, limit their access to London’s financial center, expel diplomats and even launch targeted cyber attacks. Furthermore, as Boris Johnson threatened, the UK may also cut back participation in the soccer World Cup, which Russia is hosting in June and July.

Meanwhile, as Reuters notes, the UK has already started its retaliation:

  • BRITAIN TO EXPEL SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS THOUGH NOT AS MANY AS IN 1971 - SKY NEWS REPORTER SAYS

This is likely just the start.

The official residence of Russia's ambassador to Britain, in central London

On Tuesday, President Trump told May by telephone Russia “must provide unambiguous answers regarding how this chemical weapon, developed in Russia, came to be used in the United Kingdom,” the White House said. The White House said Trump and May “agreed on the need for consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms.”

A British readout of the conversation said, “President Trump said the US was with the UK all the way.”

As a reminder, Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the genteel southern English city of Salisbury on March 4. They have been in a critical condition in hospital ever since. British scientists identified the poison as a military-grade nerve agent from a group of chemicals known as Novichok, first developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.

On Monday, Theresa May said either the Russian state had poisoned Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer, or Russia had somehow lost control of its chemical weapons. Putin said last year that it had destroyed its last stockpiles of such weapons.

May said Russia had shown a pattern of aggression including the annexation of Crimea and the murder of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking green tea laced with radioactive polonium-210.

A public inquiry found the killing of Litvinenko had probably been approved by Putin and carried out by two Russians, one of them a former KGB bodyguard who became a member of the Russian parliament. Both denied responsibility, as did Moscow.

Counter-terrorism officers began investigating the death of another Russian in Britain on Tuesday, although police said it was not thought to be linked to the attack on the Skripals. Nikolai Glushkov, 68, who was an associate of late tycoon Boris Berezovsky, was found dead on Monday. Berezovsky was found dead in March 2013 with a scarf tied around his neck in the bathroom of his luxury mansion west of London.

And now that the UK has formally commenced retaliation, all eyes are on the Kremlin and how Putin will respond.

Comments

EuroPox Wed, 03/14/2018 - 08:02 Permalink

Where is the evidence?  Normally you have to produce some evidence if you want to accuse someone - in this case the UK is demanding that Russia proves that it didn't do it...

This has all the hallmarks of a set-up designed and intended to poke the Russian bear...

Edit:  I am delighted no officials are going to the World Cup - why should they get a freebe off the taxpayer?  They can buy their own tickets!

ZeroSpam silverer Wed, 03/14/2018 - 14:44 Permalink

^^^ pier ^^^ CHRONIC SPAMMER

This chronic spammer (aka "stizazz" and "lloll" -- recently banned) is a CHRONIC SPAMMER whose "disguised links" (PREPARE FOR WORLD WAR III, above) will take you to his Spam- and Trojan-laden webpage, fondly known by ZHers as "The Whacked Out Biblicism SPAM page" where you will be the happy recipient of numerous virus from this very disturbed and obsessed individual, spamming here for more than five years.

END SPAM!

Copy and send this text to abuse@zerohedge.com

"Please remove all postings and ban log-on from user "PIER" who chronically posts short-URL links to his virus- and spam-filled website. This is the same individual posting chronically as recently-banned "STIZAZZ" and "LLOLL", among dozens of other banned log-ons (that's YOU dailywesterner and biblicisminstitute). Thank you."

In reply to by silverer

r0mulus 1 Alabama Wed, 03/14/2018 - 11:24 Permalink

Yea- got to love how May tries to limit the range of possible causes, poisoning the well/agitprop 101:

"It could only have been the Russians doing it willfully or through their negligence.
In the entire range of possibilities, there aren't any other possible explanations.
Not only am I Prime Minister, I'm the world's greatest forensic scientist and police investigator.
Come and rest your critical faculties in the glow of my own unbounded omniscience!"
Thus spracht May.

In reply to by 1 Alabama

land_of_the_few FoggyWorld Wed, 03/14/2018 - 14:15 Permalink

And how is the Blessed St Sergei of Salisbury, who clearly embodies ALL the world-famous British virtues? It was what, 300 betrayed colleagues, in exchange for a not entirely impressive anount of cash? Seems some people's loyalty to their fellow countrymen can be bought pretty cheaply, and some people are not too fussy what they spend taxpayers' money on, without asking their permission, natch. What an absolute gent, a rough-diamond, a true New Brit!. Boris must be so proud of him, kindred spirits.

In reply to by FoggyWorld

FBaggins 1 Alabama Wed, 03/14/2018 - 11:29 Permalink

Clearly a false flag manufactured to discredit Russia in the on-going Russia bashing campaign being conducted by the Rothschild evil, puppet axis of the UK, the US and Israel - which are three war-mongering, exploitive nations which have absolutely no real honor or independence.  I am so very sorry that nations like my own, Canada, have no integrity and are led by such scummy lying bastards, and pray we will wake up and come to the support of Russia.  

In reply to by 1 Alabama

veritas semper… FBaggins Wed, 03/14/2018 - 15:50 Permalink

The Beast has 3 heads ,the ones you mentioned + an attached one ,Saudi Arabia. The future Saudi Butcher , Mohammed bin Salman visited recently UK. Theresa May made such a spectacle receiving the MbS Butcher ,that it looked like a blow job with public display. Great Britain,LOL. It's good they dropped the name in time,other way we might have called it The Great Sewer :

-a desolate rock with no natural resources

-their wealth =what was stolen from the ex colonies ,like the Indian diamonds of Queenie

-their GOLD ,sold for nothing by the prior idiot PM,Gordon Brown(probably the Chinese have it)

-surviving through the paper printing in the City of London(the Real Crown ) +market manipulations in tandem with the criminals on Wall Street

-filled with ignorant,fat ,lazy and insouciant(SIC!) subjects +imported 3rd world 'assets' ,like the Paki pedophiles raping the white girls who escaped being raped by the British ruling class

-a  psychotic ,psychopathic,pedophile ruling class ,who is not even smart (inbreeding will do that to you): look at the pathetic show offered by them regarding the 'Russian gas'

Britain is itching to become a sunken island ,polluting the Atlantic Ocean.

 It seems Britain is fighting for the first place in the gallery of the Biggest Idiot Country in the West . They might get it ,also the competition is stiff.

In reply to by FBaggins

RationalLuddite 1 Alabama Wed, 03/14/2018 - 11:40 Permalink

 

So you can buy the formula for $30 from Amazon for the last  decade:https://www.amazon.com/State-Secrets-Insiders-Chronicle-Chemical/dp/1432725661

The scientists who developed it defected to the USA in 1992 and has pointed out on Facebook that anyone could have produced it or it could have come from multiple locations:

https://www.rt.com/news/421200-uk-novichok-agent-allegations/

https://www.sott.net/article/379951-UK-claims-of-Russian-responsibility-for-Skripal-poisoning-discredited-govt-manufacturing-propaganda-operation-against-Russia

Do people actually even understand that unless a chemical is of low, contaminated quality that it is very rare to be able to tell where it's been manufacturered? Whether using DSC / TGA / DMA / FTIR etc etc one basically pure chemical is utterly indistinguishable from another.  How do i know this? BECAUSE PART OF MY JOB for 2 years USED TO BE TO ANALYZE & THEN CLONE CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS by getting another manufacturer to replicate it. They are INDISTINGUISHABLE - functionally, technically & legally. I really thought most people understand this - Yes? No??!?

There is so much not just wrong with all this, but actually nonsensical, whether from a basic technical viewpoint to due process to clear propaganda  to straight plausiblity to simple logic. I can't be bothered saying more as, to quote the fabulous Karen Straughan, "there is only so much FUUUUCK i can push into my head every day", or as Lavrov just said in the UN re Syria and the US's clear incoherence "I simply don't have any normal terms left to describe all this"

https://www.sott.net/article/379936-Russian-to-Judgement-on-the-Skripal-Poisoning

https://www.sott.net/article/379962-Spys-Salisbury-Porton-Down-Sergi-Skripal-and-Fourteen-and-a-half-certainties

 

In reply to by 1 Alabama

JohninMK RationalLuddite Wed, 03/14/2018 - 11:56 Permalink

The underlying assumption that a Soviet and hence assumed Russian Novichok programme existed - is open to serious doubt.

The only source for the story of a Soviet/Russian programme to develop a new class of military nerve agents codenamed Novichoks is a defector in the 1990s named Vil Mirzayanov. He claimed that one of these compounds was 5 to 8 times more toxic than VX and that production of these compounds had continued after the Chemical Weapons Convention came into effect. He explained the many publications in the open literature by Soviet chemists on compounds with similar structures as a deception to provide cover for secret research on other more toxic compounds, and gave structures for these compounds.

A review of chemical warfare agents in 2016 (http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/chapter/bk9781849739696-00001/978-1-84973-969-6) by Robin Black, who had just retired as head of the detection lab at Porton Down, states that there is no independent confirmation of Mirzayanov's claims about the chemical properties of Novichok compounds.

The report of the OPCW's Scientific Advisory Board's meeting in April 2013 made a similar statement, and did not recommend adding these compounds or their precursors to the list of scheduled chemicals banned or restricted under the CWC. The members of the scientific advisory board included people who, like Black, were heads of western chemical defence labs. These labs would almost surely have undertaken experimental tests of Mirzayanov's claims about the toxicity of these compounds. So if members of the scientific advisory board who were in a position to know the results of these experiments did not recommend adding these compounds to the list of scheduled chemicals, we can reasonably infer that they were not found to be military grade nerve agents.

 

In reply to by RationalLuddite

Dickweed Wang 1 Alabama Wed, 03/14/2018 - 13:05 Permalink

Like the UK couldnt counterfit the stuff by now.

 

The Russian's stopped messing with that class of nerve agent years (or decades) ago because they are so dangerous.  They are all binary (two part) nerve agents and the two chemicals used have to be added together in exact amounts at a narrow temperature range.  It's been reported that dozens of trained chemical weapons personnel in Russia have died handling that stuff, even when all the recommended or mandated precautions were followed exactly.  The bottom line is that type of nerve agent is not something some basement chemist is going to fuck around with and the chances that it was actually used in the Skirpal incident are extremely remote.  The substance would have had to have been mixed right before it was used and the risk of that mixing process (i.e. by hand, in a public venue) is off the chart dangerous. It was named by the UK as the substance used in that attack due to it's Russian roots.  IMO it was a type of false flag incident by the deep state fuckers in either the UK or the USA (or both) to further denigrate Russia.

In reply to by 1 Alabama

bluez 1 Alabama Wed, 03/14/2018 - 13:41 Permalink

So the Brits can analize what it is in the lab, but they couldn't actually just make it themselves? Gee they are so helpless, poor dears.

UPDATE: Maybe it's the Russians who are the stupids, since they could have just used an American nerve agent instead, and it could never have been traced? Why the hell didn't they think of that?

In reply to by 1 Alabama

OverTheHedge tmosley Wed, 03/14/2018 - 09:26 Permalink

Good timing for a Spring Offensive starting in Ukraine. Or not.

It just struck me that perhaps the EU had an incentive in all of this - perhaps there were back-channels between Russia / UK looking for trade deals, and God knows the EU wouldn't want that to happen, so a quick slap with some nerve-agent, and all deals are off. (I realise this is pretty unlikely, but anything involving making the EU look bad is OK in my book)

In reply to by tmosley

HopefulCynical OverTheHedge Wed, 03/14/2018 - 10:28 Permalink

It's more likely than Russia being responsible for the poisoning. This is definitely something the EU fuckwits would pull - with CIA/Mossad help, of course.

May's hyperventilating response exemplifies the (((pants-shitting panic))) I've been pointing out. They're fucking terrified because the masses are awake, thoroughly pissed off, and not nearly as stupid as they thought we were.

Think about the wall-to-wall media plastering of that little Hogg asshole, just to make it look like every kid in America wants the 2nd Amendment repealed. Meanwhile, people are calling into talk radio shows, saying that their kids are being told that they MUST participate in this upcoming bullshit school walkout - or else.

Day. Of. The. Rope. It approaches.

In reply to by OverTheHedge

JohninMK Mr. Universe Wed, 03/14/2018 - 12:04 Permalink

Indeed it did.

Strangely it is unlikely that either Russia or the UK MI6 did it as it puts at risk their future recruitment of spies if they can't protect them after they have defected. This is a really big blow to MI6's ability to recruit in the future and could put at risk some of its current agents.

This is probably either the US or Mossad stirring things up to make intervention in Syria or Ukraine of both more palatable for Western public. As a by-product it also probably tried but failed to eliminate a lose end in the Steele Dossier.

In reply to by Mr. Universe