Nearly two dozen Russian diplomats in the U.K. have one week to leave the country after Prime Minister Theresa May announced several new measures against Russia in response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal last week, including asset freezes and seizures.
May said Russia responded to her request for an explanation of the events surrounding Skripal's attack with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”.
She said Russia had failed to provide any “credible” explanation of events and of why it has “an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law”.
Mrs May said the government would “urgently develop proposals” for new legislative powers to “harden our defences against all forms of hostile state activity”.
Included in those proposals are the following:
- expel 23 diplomats, giving them one week to leave the country
- create new powers to detain those suspected of hostile state activity at the UK border.
- ask the Home Secretary to look at new counter-espionage powers to “clamp down on the full spectrum of hostile activities of foreign agents in our country”.
- take immediate actions to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK
- increased checks on private flights, customs and freight traffic to track those visiting the country
- freeze Russian state assets wherever there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents
- continue to bring all the capabilities of UK law enforcement to bear against serious criminals and corrupt elites
Following the British government's conclusion that it is "highly likely" that Russia was behind the attack on former double-agent Skripal and his daughter, the Prime Minister had set a deadline of midnight for Russia to respond to her demand for information; the Kremlin failed to cooperate.
Coupled with the measures she announced in Parliament, according to The Independent, Mrs May is also reportedly preparing a raft of economic measures that include asset freezes and seizures.
A Government minister told the paper: ‘What happens will be an economic war, these will be economic measures.
‘Russia’s economy is only half that of the UK, a lot of it concentrated in a few people’s hands. Well, we’ll do our bit to make it smaller if they want to carry on like this.’
Russia continues to deny its involvement in the nerve agent poisonings and has requested samples of the substance. So far British authorities have not granted that request.