DAY THE WORLD TURNED ON PUTIN; Triumph for Mrs May as 23 Nations Unite to Kick out More Than 100 Russian Diplomats

Daily Mail (London), March 27, 2018 | Go to article overview

DAY THE WORLD TURNED ON PUTIN; Triumph for Mrs May as 23 Nations Unite to Kick out More Than 100 Russian Diplomats


Byline: Jason Groves Political Editor

VLADIMIR Putin was on the back foot last night after the West expelled more than 100 Russian spies in a show of support for Britain.

In an unprecedented diplomatic rebuke to Moscow, 22 countries said they would be joining the UK in expelling Russian agents in retaliation for the Salisbury attack.

The extraordinary Western response is a coup for Theresa May, who has spent days warning allies that they could face similar Russian aggression if they stand by.

The Prime Minister told MPs: 'This is the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history. If the Kremlin's goal is to intimidate and divide the Western alliance then their efforts have spectacularly backfired.

'Today's actions by our allies clearly demonstrate that we all stand shoulder to shoulder in sending the strongest signal to the Kremlin that Russia cannot continue to flout international law and threaten our security.' The United States led the way with the expulsions, announcing that 60 Russian 'diplomats' would be booted out. The White House last night said the decision showed Britain and the US were 'joined at the hip' in their response to Russian aggression.

Sixteen EU countries said they would also be expelling Russian agents, with at least two more expected to follow in the coming days. The show of strength came as: |The Prime Minister revealed that more than 130 people in Salisbury may have been exposed to the Novichok nerve agent; |The Kremlin warned the world was entering a new Cold War as it hit out at those trying to 'contain Russia'; | Mrs May told MPs that former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain critically ill. She added: 'Doctors indicated that their condition is unlikely to change in the near future, and they may never recover fully.' Yesterday's wave of expulsions followed a diplomatic push by Mrs May, Foreign Secre-tary Boris Johnson and senior figures in the security services, who have shared intelligence with allies on the Russian threat. The UK has already expelled 23 suspected Russian spies in a bid to 'dismantle' the Kremlin's espionage network in this country. Russia replied by doing the same, closing a consulate and banning the work of the British Council.

Mrs May warned EU leaders last week that their own countries were 'at risk' unless they joined the UK in taking a strong stand.

She was rewarded yesterday when France, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Lithuania, Italy, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, Estonia, Croatia, Finland, Latvia, Romania, Sweden, Hungary and Australia all announced they would be expelling Russian diplomats in response to the Salisbury attack.

Ireland and Belgium are expected to follow suit in the coming days. Non-EU countries responding to the UK's call included the US, Canada, Ukraine, Albania and Norway.

European Council president Donald Tusk said 'additional measures' could not be excluded 'in the coming days and weeks'. …

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