LONDON — The British government is to expel 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, Theresa May said today.
In a statement to Parliament, the prime minister accused the diplomats of being Russian spies.
"For those who wish to do us harm, my message is clear. You are not welcome here," May said.
She added: "This will be the single biggest expulsion for over thirty years and it reflects the fact that this is not the first time that the Russian State has acted against our country."
May also announced that the UK will freeze the assets of Russians living in the UK under suspicion of undermining the country's interest, saying there "is no place for their money in the UK."
"We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents," May said.
She told MPs: "This was not just an act of attempted murder in Salisbury, nor an act against the UK, it is an affront to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and it is an affront to the rules based on which we and our international partners depend."
The prime minister confirmed that neither members of the Royal Family or government minister will attend the upcoming World Cup in Russia, in which the England football team will participate.
She also announced that all high-level contact between the UK and Russian governments would cease.
Russia immediately warned Britain against making any further "provocation" against them.
The Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko told Sky News that Britain's actions were "unacceptable" and "a very serious provocation."
He also suggested that there would be a swift response from Russia to the expulsions. In a statement, a Russia spokesperson said that "We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted."
They added: "All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain."