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Russia says Britain must cut more than 50 diplomats


British ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow leaves the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow on March 30, 2018. Russia had summoned the ambassadors of a number of nations including Britain, France, Germany and Canada to inform them of retaliatory measures after a coordinated campaign by the UK and its allies over a nerve agent attack on a former spy.Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP

Britain has to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia by more than 50 more people, the foreign ministry said Saturday, following an escalating row over the nerve agent attack on a former double agent.

The new measures are seen as punishment for Britain’s calls on allies to expel Russian diplomats.”Russia suggested parity. The British side has more than 50 more people,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told AFP.

On Friday, Moscow summoned British ambassador Laurie Bristow, giving London a month to cut the number of diplomatic staff to the same number Russia has in Britain.

Bristow had been handed a protest note in connection with the “provocative and unfounded actions of the British side which instigated the unwarranted expulsion of Russian diplomats from a variety of states,” the foreign ministry said Friday.

In all, more than 150 Russian diplomats have been ordered out of the US, EU members, NATO countries and other nations in solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil in early March.

Earlier this month Russia expelled 23 British diplomats, closed a British consulate in Saint Petersburg and halted the activities of British Council.

They came after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level contacts, among other measures.

On Friday, Russia expelled diplomats from 23 other countries most of them EU member states in retaliation against the West, in the biggest wave of tit-for-tat expulsions in recent memory.

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