"I think Russian-British relations will develop normally. We are interested in the development of these relations both on Russia's part and Great Britain's as well," Putin told reporters in Saransk. "But it is necessary to balance our actions with common sense, to respect the legal rights and interests of our partners, and then everything will develop in the best way. I'm convinced also that we will cope with this minicrisis, too."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin did not identify the British diplomats, but said Russia would also stop issuing visas to British officials and would halt counterterrorism cooperation with Britain.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was "disappointed" by Russia's move.
Britain announced the expulsion of the four Russian diplomats as well as visa restrictions for Russian government officials after Moscow refused to extradite the chief suspect in the radioactive poisoning death in London last year of former Russian security officer Aleksandr Litvinenko.
(Interfax, Reuters, AFP, AP)