Russia ramps up diplomatic clash, expels more UK diplomats


MOSCOW (AP) — Russia ordered new cuts Friday to the number of British envoys in the country, escalating a dispute with the West over the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain. The massive expulsion of diplomats on both sides has reached a scale unseen even at the height of the Cold War.

Two dozen countries, including the U.S. and many EU nations, and NATO ordered out more than 150 Russian diplomats this week in a show of solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia that London blamed on Russia.

Moscow has vehemently denied involvement in the March 4 nerve agent attack in the city of Salisbury and announced the expulsion of the same number of diplomats from each nation.

Scores of foreign ambassadors streamed into the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow today to receive the notices.

The ministry further escalated its response today, saying it has ordered Britain to reduce the number of its diplomats in Moscow to the level that Russia has in London. That exact number wasn't immediately clear.

The ministry said it summoned the British ambassador to hand him a protest over the "provocative and unsubstantiated actions by Britain, which instigated the expulsion of Russian diplomats from various nations for no reason." It gave London one month to reduce its diplomatic personnel in Russia.

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