Russia blames 'unfriendly' Britain for sparking expulsions

22nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Wednesday blamed "unfriendly" behaviour by Britain for sparking the tit-for-tat expulsion of a diplomat from each side in the latest espionage row between the two countries.

"The British side took an unfriendly step by declaring one of the diplomats of our London embassy persona-non-grata, without any foundation," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"We were forced to take an adequate measure in response... The responsibility for the consequences of this incident fully lies with those who initiated it," the ministry added.

Foreign Secretary William Hague Tuesday said that Britain on December 10 requested that the Russian Embassy in London withdraw a member of its staff from the country.

"This was in response to clear evidence of activities by the Russian intelligence services against UK interests," Hague said, adding that Russia responded on December 16 by requesting the removal of a British embassy staffer in Moscow.

Britain's diplomatic relations with Russia are only just emerging from an icy period after the murder by poisoning of the dissident Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

Russian officials have in recent months spoken of a possible reset in Moscow-London ties after the Conservative-Liberal coalition under Prime Minister David Cameron came to power in elections.

But the Russian foreign ministry said in its statement that it regretted that Britain's actions had come just when "the first encouraging trends in our relations with Britain had appeared."

© 2010 AFP

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