Buses carrying 23 Russian diplomats suspected of spying for Vladimir Putin left the embassy this morning as the group were sent back to Moscow.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed the group expelled by Theresa May last week will leave Britain today amid a furious row over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal.
The diplomats were given a week to leave Britain, an order which prompted Russia to retaliate with its own expulsion of 23 British diplomats. The British diplomats are expected to leave Moscow in the coming days.
Buses pulled out of the Russian Embassy this morning as 23 diplomats suspected of spying were sent home
Tearful friends stood on the pavement outside the Notting Hill embassy to wave off the buses as they left
Two minibuses and a number of people carriers drove away from the building this morning and towards the airport
A bus with diplomatic plates thought to be carrying the 23 diplomats being expelled from Britain leaves the embassy
Earlier, men carrying suitcases and pet carriers were seen arriving at the embassy near London’s Hyde Park
This morning, people with suitcases could be seen heading towards a white coach parked inside the gated Kensington Palace Gardens complex in London close to the Russian Embassy.
Hugging each other, holding children, pet carriers, suitcases and bags, at just after 10am a number of individuals left in a procession of vehicles including three cars, five people carriers and two small-sized coaches.
One woman could be seen filming the media which had gathered outside from front seat of a vehicle, as children could be seen excitedly looking out of the window of a coach as it pulled on to the main road.
Tensions between the two countries have ratcheted higher since the March 4 poisoning of ex-Russian spy Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury. They remain in a critical condition.
Britain’s National Security Council is meeting Tuesday to consider possible further measures.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and other European Union leaders are due to discuss the poisoning at a summit on Thursday.
A large removal truck was seen leaving the embassy today as 23 diplomats leave the UK
The group of Russians, suspected of spying, were given a week to leave last Wednesday
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said the 23 officials will leave Britain and return to Moscow today
The removal of the diplomats comes amid a tense stand-off between the Kremlin and the UK
The EU on Monday condemned the poisoning and called on Russia to ‘address urgently’ British questions over the Novichok nerve agent program.
Russia denies involvement, but Western powers see it as a sign of increasingly aggressive Russian meddling abroad.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called Britain’s accusations ‘speculative and baseless.’
Boris Johnson yesterday dismissed Russian denials of responsibility as ‘increasingly absurd’.
Speaking ahead of talks with his EU counterparts in Brussels, the Foreign Secretary said: ‘This is a classic Russian strategy of trying to conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation. They’re not fooling anybody any more.
‘There is scarcely a country around the table here in Brussels that has not been affected in recent years by some kind of malign or disruptive Russian behaviour.’
The expulsions comes amid a tense stand-off between Theresa May and Vladimir Putin
The clean-up operation following the nerve agent attack continues in Salisbury. Yesterday a car thought to have collected Yulia Skripal from the airport was taken away by the Army
The Zizzi’s restaurant where the couple dined before they collapsed remains closed off
British sources last night insisted they remain pleased with the degree of Western solidarity.
But they suggested it was too early to push for fresh EU sanctions against Moscow – with some countries wanting to see the results of tests by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) before they will consider acting.
Inspectors for the OPCW arrived in the UK yesterday to discuss the transport of samples of the Novichok nerve agent used in the attack to independent laboratories outside the UK. Ministers fear the tests could take weeks, or even months, to agree.
The Army and police are continuing to search for clues around Salisbury into what happened.
Investigators have said it may take ‘months’ to complete the widening inquiry. The focus is on the movement of the Skripals in the hours before they were found unconscious.
The Skripals remain critical in hospital following an attack attributed to the Russian state