On Monday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May set a deadline of Tuesday evening for Russian officials to explain how their military nerve agent came to be spread across a British town. But the only apparent response from Russia was a Twitter thread and some rather ominous warnings.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Who does Britain think it is, issuing ultimatums to a nuclear power?”
The UK apparently believes that it is also a nuclear power, one that won’t buckle to Russian threats or worry about keeping Vladimir Putin happy. With the deadline past, the UK now seems set to take action.
The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on former spy in Salisbury, the PM says.
Theresa May said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”.
The Salisbury incident appears to have been primarily aimed at poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia. But the chemical used—a military nerve agent created and made only in Russia—has potentially spread to hundreds of other people, and the long-life of the chemical means that accumulations of the poison may linger in the area for years.
The expulsion of these diplomats is expected to be only the first in a series of actions taken by the UK. May will announce further actions at a UN meeting to be held at 19:00 GMT on Wednesday (3 PM ET).
The UK’s rapid and firm response contrasts with efforts to dismiss Russian actions in the United States, with both Donald Trump and congressional Republicans continuing to contradict intelligence agencies and downplay both the role of Russia in the 2016 election and their ongoing threat.