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UK’s move to expel Russian diplomats to hinder visa issuance for Britons, says embassy

The Russian embassy in London is looking at reallocation of duties in the current personnel situation

LONDON, March 15. /TASS/. London’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats will adversely tell on the consular department’s possibilities to issue entry visas to UK citizens, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in London told TASS on Thursday.

"The British authorities’ hostile decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats will tell adversely on the work of the embassy’s consular department, reducing its possibilities to issue visas to UK citizens and provide consular services to Russian nationals," the spokesman said.

"The embassy is looking at reallocation of duties in the current personnel situation. The problem is exacerbated by the British side’s refusal to allow to send employees from Moscow for consular assistance and issue visas to them," the spokesman noted.

"Such steps are obviously aimed at impeding the work of the consular department as part of London’s policy of putting obstacles for the work of the diplomatic mission," he stressed. "But it should be born in mind that the embassy’s priority is providing services to Russian citizens."

UK Prime Minister Theresa May on March 14 accused Russia of "an unlawful use of force" against her country following an incident involving former GRU military intelligence Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. She said that 23 Russian diplomats would be expelled from the country within one week and that British officials would be absent from the FIFA World Cup finals.

May said the invitation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to pay a reciprocal visit to the United Kingdom had been revoked and all planned high-level bilateral contacts had been suspended. Nevertheless, she added that it was not in British interest to break off all dialogue between the UK and Russia.

Along with this, May claimed that Moscow might have lost control of the reserves of the nerve agent that had been used for an attack against the Skripals. She said they had been poisoned with a nerve agent of the Novichok group of chemicals, developed in the Soviet Union.

In the meantime, Lavrov said Russia had nothing to do with the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter and that London was trying to mislead the world community. Moscow urged London for related evidence and for providing them in keeping with the official procedures.

On March 4, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury after being exposed to a nerve agent. Both are in hospital in critical condition.

In 2004, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Skripal and later on, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for high treason. In 2010, the former colonel was handed over to the US as part of a swap involving espionage suspects. Later in the same year, Skripal arrived in the UK and settled there.