Russia expels 23 British diplomats in escalating spy dispute

Russia followed through with its move to expel 23 British diplomats on Saturday in response to an equivalent expulsion of Russian diplomats by the United Kingdom over the poisoning of a double agent on British soil.

"Our priority today is looking after our staff in Russia and assisting those that will return to the UK," the British Foreign Office said in a statement Saturday reported by Reuters, as the diplomatic staff leaves Moscow. 

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The Foreign Office said that Britain's National Security Council will meet to discuss further actions against Russia. The U.K., the U.S., Germany and France accused Russia this week of orchestrating the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a toxic nerve agent on British soil, leaving them critically ill.

“The onus remains on the Russian state to account for their actions and to comply with their international obligations," the Foreign Office said Saturday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the decision earlier this week to expel the Russian diplomats, who she said were spies for the Russian government. Russian officials quickly dismissed the accusations and vowed the nation would take reciprocal actions. 

In an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Russia accused Britain of fabricating the "fairy tales" in an attempt to besmirch Russia.