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U.K. Says 'No Change' On Position On Russian Diplomats

Russian police stand outside the British Embassy in Moscow after a diplomatic spat between the two countries earlier this year.
Russian police stand outside the British Embassy in Moscow after a diplomatic spat between the two countries earlier this year.

Britain has rejected comments by Russia's ambassador to London claiming the two countries have agreed to gradually reinstate dozens of diplomatic personnel who were expelled by both sides following the Novichok poisoning in the English city of Salisbury, Russia's state-run TASS news agency reports.

"No new arrangements have been agreed," TASS quoted a spokesperson at the British Embassy in Moscow as saying on December 28.

"There has been no change in our position on the Russian diplomatic presence in the U.K., including the measures taken after Salisbury," the spokesperson said.

"The staffing of our respective missions takes place within those constraints."

The spokesperson added that Britain had had a "continuous dialogue with Russia" about diplomatic visas even prior to the Salisbury events.

The remarks from the British spokesperson came hours after Moscow’s ambassador to London, Aleksandr Yakovenko, told the Rossia-24 TV channel that diplomatic personnel in the London and Moscow embassies would begin to be reinstated in January.

"I am not sure that it will affect all the employees, but at least half of the embassy staff will be restored," Yakovenko said.

Neither the British Foreign Office nor the Russian Foreign Ministry released official statements on the matter on December 28.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent in the English town in March.

Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the scandal, and Russia in response expelled the same number of British diplomats and ordered the closure of the British Consulate-General in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, and the British Council’s offices operating in the country.

The United States and European Union also expelled Russian diplomats and added to their existing sanctions on Moscow.

London has blamed Moscow for the poisoning, while Russia has repeatedly denied evidence that its agents were behind the poisoning and accused British intelligence agencies of staging the incident to stoke what they called "Russophobia."

The Skripals survived the poisoning, in which a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok was used.

Two other British citizens were exposed to the same nerve agent in June, apparently by accident. One of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.

With reporting by Rossia-24, Reuters, and TASS
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