LONDON, March 16. /TASS/. Russian diplomats expelled from the United Kingdom over the notorious Skripal case will leave that country along with their families on March 20, Russian Ambassador in London Alexander Yakovenko said on Friday.
"They will leave on March 20," he told Russian journalists, adding that about 80 people - the diplomats and their family members - would leave the United Kingdom.
He denied allegations that these diplomats had anything to do with intelligence services. "It is nothing but a fable, absolute nonsense," the ambassador said, adding that nearly half of the embassy’s employees were to leave the country.
"These people are regular diplomats, 40% of the embassy’s staff. The embassy has never been overmanned, since the Britons have always been practicing expulsions. So, the staff has constantly been decreasing," Yakovenko said. "Naturally, further expulsions will reduce the embassy’s possibilities, first of all, as far as consular services are concerned. It will create certain problems but most of us understand where we are working and in the current situation each diplomat is ready for any unexpected developments."
Former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an unknown nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury on March 4. They are currently in the hospital in critical condition.
Skripal was earlier convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and exchanged for Russian intelligence officers.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. On March 14, she accused Russia of an "unlawful use of force" against the United Kingdom and announced that London would expel 23 Russian diplomats and take other restrictive measures.
Russia has rejected all accusations and vowed to respond to the UK’s steps.