Kremlin says 'unforgiveable' to link Putin to ex-spy's poisoning

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Putin's spokesman denounced the claim as "shocking and inexcusable".

Russia is set to expel British diplomats in retaliation for Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to kick out 23 Russians as relations with London crashed to a post-Cold War low over an attack involving a military-grade nerve agent on English soil. British diplomats in Moscow were bracing for a retaliatory order from the Kremlin and were just waiting to be told who had to leave and when.

The nerve agent used to kill former Russian intelligence office Sergei Skripal, 66, in Salisbury may have been planted in his daughter Yulia's luggage before she left Moscow, a senior intelligence source has said. The tensions threaten to overshadow Putin's expected re-election Sunday for another six-year term.

Russian investigators said on Friday they had opened a criminal investigation into the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and a murder investigation into Glushkov's death.

The diplomats are due to leave London on March 20, RIA news agency quoted Russia's ambassador to Britain as saying. Her father has British citizenship. He was still described as being in a serious but stable condition on Friday.

British police said there is no apparent link to the attack on Glushkov and the poisoning of the Skripals.

Salisbury District Hospital has also assessed 46 people who came forward expressing health concerns but they were not admitted.

Britain's foreign minister increased pressure on Russian Federation over the poisoning case of one of Moscow's ex-spies by claiming it was "overwhelmingly likely" President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the attack.

Russian Federation on Friday said that it will expel British diplomats and halt high-level meetings with the U.K. Russian Federation hasn't yes said who will be expelled, and when.

Accusing the Russian state of the nerve agent attack, Britain is expelling 23 Russian diplomats and is trying to build a coalition of countries to punish Moscow as a result.

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Mr Johnson had said: "Our quarrel is with Putin's Kremlin, and with his decision - and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision - to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the United Kingdom, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War".

"We have never encountered this level of discussion on the global stage", Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, saying he's been surprised by the British reaction.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told The Associated Press that the Salisbury attack was a direct challenge to Europe. Mr Stoltenberg said the incident was part of a "pattern of reckless behaviour" from Russian Federation following allegations of cyber attacks and election meddling in recent years.

Russian Federation has refused Britain's demands to explain how Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military, was used against the Skripals in the English city of Salisbury.

Russian Federation denies being the source of the nerve agent, suggesting it could have been another country, and has demanded Britain share samples collected by investigators. It said it would not respond to Ms May's allegations until it was given samples of the poison used and such samples were handed to the worldwide Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Speaking to the AP, he called it unlikely that some of the nerve agent could have gone missing in the years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

A report in the Telegraph says it was put in the suitcase of Skripal's daughter before she left Russian Federation for Britain to see her father.

The war of words continued despite there still being no official word on the form and scale of the Russian response, which may now wait for next week as Moscow seeks to avoid drawing attention away from its impending election.

Vil Mirzayanov, who now lives in New Jersey, said that if the substance is Novichok, as Britain claims, it's "100 percent" clear it came from Russian Federation.

Russia's envoy to London, Alexander Yakovenko, said he had received a diplomatic note informing him that the Skripals were in a critical condition but he also accused Britain of "hiding" further details. Downing Street called the attack "an unlawful use of force' by the Russians against the U.K".

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