European Union nations mull expelling Russian diplomats after spy attack

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Twenty-three Russian diplomats left Britain Wednesday in the single biggest expulsion of foreign diplomats from the United Kingdom since the 1970s after Russia refused to provide any explanation for their stockpile of Novichok, which Britain says Moscow used in the attempted March 4 murders.

"We've got the highest levels of controls".

Russia, for its part, accused London of trying to force its European allies to take "confrontational steps" and unleashing an "anti-Russian campaign".

The EU has recalled its ambassador from Moscow for consultations over an incident it called "a grave challenge to our shared security".

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said she was ready to expel Russian spies, whose activities she said were deeply harmful: "It is certain that a coordinated action will be taken next week, maybe at the start of it", she said.

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"In solidarity with the United Kingdom and other European Union countries, Latvia is now discussing with them how to coordinate a proper response to Russian activity regarding the chemical attack on Sergei Skripal", ministry spokesman Gints Jegermanis told AFP.

Russia's ambassador has written to the police officer treated in hospital after the Salisbury attack, wishing him a "full recovery" and assuring him Russian Federation had "nothing to do with this reckless incident".

Angela Merkel said Germany would also consider "further measures" against Russian Federation.

May briefed other European Union leaders on the probe into the Salisbury attack over a summit dinner on Thursday. But divisions remain over how far to go, with Austria already ruling out expelling diplomats.

She managed to overcome resistance from countries like Greece and Italy who were reluctant to put their close Kremlin ties in jeopardy to persuade them to back Britain's conclusion that Moscow was to blame.

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The UK's military research base, Porton Down, said a group of nerve agents known as Novichok were used in the poisoning of Mr Skripal and his daughter.

The Kremlin has angrily rejected Britain's claims and Russian officials have offered numerous alternative explanations, including that London directed the attack itself or that Washington may have been involved.

"We agreed - Germany and France at least - that such reactions are still necessary in addition to recalling the ambassador".

Tusk said it was not clear how many countries would join the expulsions. This is why I was focused yesterday on what is for me the most important political keep the whole community as united as possible in this very dramatic moment and situation.

The leaders of former Soviet bloc European Union states the Czech Republic and Lithuania, as well as Denmark and Ireland, have said they were considering further unilateral steps, including expelling diplomats. Det Sgt Nick Bailey, the police officer who was hospitalised after responding to the incident, was released on Thursday.

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