World Bulletin / News Desk
A convoy of vehicles carrying the diplomats and their family members left the Russian Embassy before midday, as they were given a week to leave by British Prime Minister Theresa May last Tuesday.
The busses carrying Russian diplomats headed for the RAF Northolt Airbase where the expelled Russians later left the U.K. for Moscow.
The biggest single expulsion of foreign diplomats from the U.K. since the 1970s came after Russia refused to provide any explanation over their stockpile of the Novichok nerve agent – a military-grade chemical gas – which Britain says it used in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on March 4.
The Skripals remain in stable but critical condition after being taken to hospital when they were found unconscious on a public bench in the southern English town of Salisbury.
May said the incident took place “against the backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian state aggression across Europe and beyond.”
Russia has denied any involvement in the incident but also expelled 23 British diplomats in a reciprocal move, accusing the U.K. of not sharing a sample of the substance for their examination.
As well as expelling the 23 Russian diplomats, who the U.K. has identified as “undeclared intelligence officers,” May said they would “develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against Hostile State Activity and ensure those seeking to carry out such activity cannot enter the U.K.” and “suspend all planned high-level contacts between the UK and the Russian Federation.”
May also said British ministers and royal family members will boycott the Football World Cup hosted by Russia this summer.
Britain will also make “full use of existing powers to enhance our efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the U.K. who could be engaged in activity that threatens the security of the U.K. and of our allies,” May said.