Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   23 January

Russia-UK diplomatic row escalates as Moscow reacts by declaring 23 British diplomats persona non grata

YEREVAN, MARCH 17, ARMENPRESS. The Russian ministry of foreign affairs declared 23 British diplomats stationed in the country persona non grata. The diplomats have one week to leave Russia, RIA Novosti reported.

Moscow revoked its earlier agreement on opening of the UK Consulate General in St. Petersburg. The British Council will also be shut down.

Earlier it was reported that Britain’s ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, was been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

Earlier the UK announced it will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy in Salisbury

PM Theresa May said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as "undeclared intelligence officers", BBC reported.

She also revoked an invitation to Russia's foreign minister, and said the Royal Family would not attend the Fifa World Cup later this year.

Russia refused to meet May's midnight deadline to co-operate in the case, prompting May to announce a series of measures intended to send a "clear message" to Russia.

In addition to expelling he diplomats and boycotting the FIFA World Cup in Russia, the plans include to suspend all planned high level bi-lateral contacts between the UK and Russia, freeze Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents and increase checks on customs, cargo and private flights.

On 4 March 2018, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer, and his daughter Yulia, visiting him from Moscow, were poisoned with an alleged Russia-made nerve agent in Salisbury, England. As of 13 March 2018, they remain critically ill at Salisbury District Hospital. The poisoning is being investigated by British authorities as attempted murder.

The United Kingdom believes it is "highly likely" that the Russian government was behind the attack. Russia denies any involvement.

The Russian diplomats will leave the UK on March 20.

English –translator/editor: Stepan Kocharyan

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