Russia expels four UK diplomats

Russia is to expel four English diplomats after the UK ordered the removal of four of its own officials.

After a cautious three-day wait, Moscow has announced a tit-for-tat retaliation to UK diplomatic sanctions.

On Monday David Miliband announced the expulsion of four Russian diplomats over Moscow’s refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Russia did not immediately follow suit and it was unclear whether the country was formulating its response or attempting to strike the diplomatic high ground.

Today, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Russia would match the UK’s move.

A spokesman said Moscow would also look carefully at any visa applications from UK officials.

He said the UK was making cooperation impossible, including on the war on terror.

“The position of the Brown government is not based on common sense and reasoning,” the spokesman added.

Mr Miliband said Russia’s retaliation was a “completely unjustified move”, adding he was disappointed at Russia’s stance.

The Foreign Secretary said: “We are now studying these measures very carefully to ensure that we understand the detail.

“We are disappointed that the Russian government should have signalled no new cooperation in the case of the extradition of Mr Andrei Lugovoi for the alleged murder of Alexander Litvinenko.”

Mr Miliband said he welcomed international support and the “positive statements about the need to defend the integrity of the British judicial system.”

The Liberal Democrats said Russia was isolating itself from the international community.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Michael Moore said: “It is disappointing that Russia has resorted to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions, but to withdraw anti-terror cooperation is self-defeating in the extreme.

“Russia appears to be intent on isolating itself from the international community.”

The government has rejected Russia’s offer to try Mr Lugovoi on home soil, doubting he would receive a fair trial.

Mr Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who had taken British citizenship, was murdered in November 2006 with polonium-210.

Traces of the radioactive isotope were connected to Mr Lugovoi in locations around London.