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Russia 'culpable' for nerve agent spy attack that put UK citizens at risk, says PM May as she gives spies week to leave

23 Russian 'undeclared agents' expelled

Prime Minister Theresa May has said Russia was "culpable" for nerve agent spy attack and it put UK citizens at risk.

Addressing parliament the Prime Minister called on UK's allies to join with it on responding to Russia.

She said the Russian state had responded to the attempted murder of spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with "sarcasm, contempt and defiance".

Mrs May said: "Their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events."

Russia had failed to provide any "credible" explanation of events and of why it has "an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law", she said.

Mrs May said the UK would increase checks on movements and freeze Russian assets.

Expelling 23 Russian diplomats she said were identified as undeclared intelligence agents, she gave them one week to leave the country.

She said there would be no ministers or members of the Royal family at the forthcoming World Cup in Russia.

The Prime Minister said the Salisbury incident was an "unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK".

Theresa May told MPs the National Security Council had agreed "immediate actions to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK".

There would be "urgent work to develop new powers to tackle all forms of hostile state activity and to ensure that those seeking to carry out such activity cannot enter the UK".

Mrs May said the government would "urgently develop proposals"  for new legislative powers to "harden our defences against all forms of hostile state activity".

She said: "This will include the addition of a targeted power to detain those suspected of hostile state activity at the UK border.

"This power is currently only permitted in relation to those suspected of terrorism."

Mrs May  told MPs that  it was "not in our national interest to break off all dialogue between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation, but in the aftermath of this appalling act against our country this relationship cannot be the same".

She announced the suspension of "all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation".

This includes the revocation of an invitation for foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to visit the UK, said Mrs May.

And she said: "There will be no attendance by ministers or indeed members of the Royal Family at this summer's World Cup in Russia."

The PM has also asked Home Secretary Amber Rudd to consider whether there is a need for new counter-espionage powers to "clamp down on the full spectrum of hostile activities of foreign agents in our country".

Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko told Sky News after his Foreign Office meeting: "I said everything what is done today by the British Government is absolutely unacceptable and we consider this a provocation."

He said the UK should "follow international law" and under the rules of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons "they have to present a request to the organisation and then we are happy to consider this within 10 days".

The UK's actions were "nothing to do with the situation that we have in Salisbury, we believe this is very serious provocation".

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