[QODLink]
Europe
Russia condemns UK expulsion
Moscow says it was forced to respond in kind after its diplomat was declared persona non grata.
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2010 13:43 GMT
The UK government says it found evidence of Russian intelligence service activities against British interests [EPA]

Russia has criticised Britain for expelling a diplomat from its London embassy for spying, calling the move groundless and saying Moscow had been forced to respond in kind.

The mutual diplomatic expulsions between Russia and Britain are the first since 2007, when relations fell to a low after Alexander Litvinenko, a Kremlin critic, was killed in London with a rare radioactive isotope.

"The British side took an unfriendly step the other day, having groundlessly declared one of our colleagues in our embassy in London persona non grata," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We were forced to take an adequate corresponding measure."

It did not say what the measure was, but the UK has said Russia requested the removal of a British diplomat on December 16 and that both diplomats had now been withdrawn.

The latest spat undermines efforts by Britain's new coalition government to forge a better relationship with Russia.

The death of Litvinenko in 2007 sparked a lingering diplomatic row between Russia and the UK [Reuters]

Britain has said it requested the expulsion of the diplomat on December 10 after evidence of Russian intelligence service activities against British interests.

"There is clear evidence of activities by Russian intelligence services against UK interests," a British foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

There had been recent signs of a thaw with the British government which took power in May.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, last month accepted an invitation to visit Russia next year and William Hague, his foreign minister, has already been to Moscow.

Relations have been further strained by a conflict between BP and its billionaire Russia-connected partners in the TNK-BP venture, whom the British oil company accused of using connections with Russian authorities to win a row over strategy and management control in 2008.

The dispute resulted in the departure of TNK-BP's then chief executive Robert Dudley from Russia in 2008 under what he described as unprecedented pressure from authorities.

In the same year, the Russian government forced the closure of some of the British Council's regional offices - the British government's cultural centres - saying they were not legal.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
join our mailing list