Written by 05:10 World

Russia Expels British Diplomat After U.K. Booted His Counterpart

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that it was expelling Britain’s defense attaché from the country, reciprocating against the British government after it threw out his Russian counterpart last week.

The Russian ministry announced that further, unspecified retaliatory steps would be forthcoming because of the “unfriendly” measures taken by London.

The ministry summoned a British diplomat to inform him that the attaché had been declared “persona non grata,” according to a statement.

Britain had announced on May 8 that it was ordering the Russian defense attaché to leave, describing him as an “undeclared” military intelligence officer.

The Russian statement said the ministry viewed that order as “a politically motivated action with a clearly expressed Russophobic character, which deals irreparable damage to bilateral relations.”

The British diplomat, Capt. Adrian Coghill, a naval officer who had previously served as the assistant attaché in Moscow more than a decade ago, was given a week to depart.

Grant Shapps, Britain’s minister of defense, called the Russian action “a desperate move,” in a brief initial reaction posted on the X social media platform.

While Russia’s defense attaché in Britain “was acting as a spy, Putin’s only issue with ours was that they personified the UK’s unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of his illegal and barbaric invasion,” Mr. Shapps said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, setting off one of Europe’s bloodiest, most prolonged conflicts since World War II, it habitually denounces measures it perceives as hostile as “Russophobia.” Relations with Britain and much of the West, which backs Ukraine with significant aid, including weapons, have been strained by the hostilities.

Last week, in addition to expelling the Russian defense attaché, Col. Maxim Elovik, Britain also shuttered several Russian diplomatic facilities in the country.

The government accused Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., of a pattern of “malign activity” in Britain and Europe, including hacking and leaking trade documents relating to the United States, and targeting British lawmakers through malicious email campaigns.

James Cleverly, the British home secretary, told Parliament that the government was announcing the measures “to make clear to Russia that we will not tolerate such apparent escalations.”

Mr. Cleverly had also said Britain would put new restrictions on visas for Russian diplomats, limiting the amount of time they can spend in Britain.

Megan Specia contributed reporting.


Last modified: 19 May 2024