Russia has told Britain it must send home “just over 50” more of its diplomats in a worsening standoff with Western countries over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.
The Kremlin has already retaliated in kind against Britain and ejected 23 British diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. London says Moscow was behind the attack – an allegation Russia denies.
British Ambassador Laurie Bristow was summoned again on Friday to be told that London diplomats had one month to cut its diplomatic contingent in Russia to the same size as the Russian mission in Britain.
On Saturday, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the media that meant Britain would have to cut “a little over 50” of its diplomats in Russia.
“We asked for parity. The Brits have 50 diplomats more than the Russians,” Zakharova said.
Russia on Friday expelled 59 diplomats from 23 countries in retaliation for the wave of ejections of Russian officials.
It came a day after Moscow ordered the expulsion of 60 US diplomats in response to a similar move by Washington earlier this week.
Russia on Thursday also revoked the permit for the US consulate in St Petersburg – meaning it must shut down – and issued a protest note to US Ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman regarding what it called “outrageous and unwarranted” diplomatic action against Russia.
Over the past few days, 25 European countries – along with the US, Canada, and Australia – expelled more than 120 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity with the UK after the alleged attack.
NATO also announced seven officials working in the Russian mission to the alliance will have to leave.