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Britain and Russia brace for showdown over nerve attack on ex-spy

From Reuters - March 14, 2018

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May was due to announce on Wednesday what Britain would do against Russia after a midnight deadline she set expired without an explanation from Moscow about how a Soviet-era nerve toxin was used to attack a Russian ex-spy.

(Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2FjA6EQ)

Sky News reported that May would expel a significant number of Russian diplomats. Her Downing Street office declined to comment and said she would outline the British response in a statement to parliament, expected around 1230 GMT (8.30 a.m. ET).

The United States, European Union and NATO voiced support for Britain after May said it was highly likely that Russia was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter with Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military.

Russia, which denied any involvement, said it was not responding to Mays ultimatum until it received samples of the nerve agent, in effect challenging Britain to show what sanctions it would impose against Russian interests.

Moscow had nothing to do with what happened in Britain. It will not accept any totally unfounded accusations directed against it and will also not accept the language of ultimatums, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

He said Russia remained open to cooperating with Britain in investigating the poisoning, blaming the British authorities for refusing to share information.

Russias Interfax news agency reported the Russian embassy in London planned to ask for consular access to Yulia Skripal, Sergeis daughter.

Russias Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said no progress had been made toward resolving the standoff, describing claims of Russian involvement in the attack as neither robust nor serious.

May chaired a meeting of the National Security Council at her Downing Street office on Wednesday morning and was expected to make a formal statement to parliament on the Skripal attack after her weekly question-and-answer session with lawmakers.

TRUMP SUPPORT FOR UK

The Foreign Office said Britain had called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council to update members on the attack. Russia is also a member of the council.

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