Prime Minister Theresa May said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as ‘undeclared intelligence officers’

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May making a statement on Britain’s response to a March 4 nerve attack on a former Russian double agent, following a meeting of Britain’s National Security Council, in the House of Commons in central London on March 14, 2018.

The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on former spy in Salisbury, the PM says.

Theresa May said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”.

Russia denies being involved in the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

It refused to meet May’s midnight deadline to co-operate in the case.

Russians see sabotage theory as credible in spy case

As the finger of blame points at Russia over the poisoning in Britain of former double agent Sergei Skripal, alternative theories are being promoted in Russian media outlets, ranging from a plot to sabotage the country’s upcoming presidential election to an attempt to ruin its hosting of this summer’s football World Cup.

“Russia is always blamed for everything,” complained Lyubov Tarassenko, a 69-year-old pensioner in Moscow.

Her reaction, for the most part, reflects the mood of Russians following the spy scandal, who see their country as a victim rather than a guilty party.

“The British secret services are behind the poisoning, given the ideal way it was carried out using a substance presumed to have come from Russia,” said Vladislav Dyatlov, a 46-year-old lawyer.

They want “to influence the result of the Russian presidential election,” he said, adding: “Well, we want to elect our president ourselves.”

The vote takes place on Sunday and President Vladimir Putin is the overwhelming favourite to win another mandate.

“Russia has nothing to do with it,” insisted Andrey Shishkanov, a 49-year-old doctor, who believe the affair is aimed at harming the election or the World Cup Russia is hosting.

Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a park bench in the southern city of Salisbury last week and both remain in critical condition in hospital.

The UK has demanded Russia provide answers on the March 4 poisoning.

After the identities of the victims were revealed, Kirill Kleimenov, a presenter on TV channel Pierviy Kanal commented sarcastically that “being a traitor is one of the most dangerous professions in the world”.

Kleimenov went on to note that grave misfortune had befallen several Russians living in Britain in recent years, saying: “alcohol, drugs, stress, depression are inevitable ills linked to the profession of traitor which can provoke heart attacks, brain haemorrhage, traffic accidents or even suicide.”

He concluded: “Don’t ever choose England as a country of residence if you are a professional traitor to your country.”

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