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UK expelling 23 Russian diplomats over spy spat

Last Updated Mar 14, 2018 at 12:44 pm PDT

Investigators in protective suits work at the scene near the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, England, Tuesday, March 13, 2018. The use of Russian-developed nerve agent Novichok to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter makes it "highly likely" that Russia was involved, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday. Novichok refers to a class of nerve agents developed in the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War.(Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

The UK has expelled 23 Russian diplomats after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent

Britain's leader is accusing expelled Russian diplomats of being undeclared intelligence officers

A security expert says Russia has become a resurgent superpower and is not afraid to exert its influence internationally

LONDON, U.K. (NEWS 1130) – Britain is expelling 23 Russian diplomats after the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy — the single biggest such expulsion since the Cold War.

Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons on Wednesday that Russia has expressed “disdain” for Britain’s wish for an explanation into the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. She says that Russia’s actions “represent an unlawful use of force.”

“This morning I chaired a further meeting of the National Security Council, where we agreed to immediate actions to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK, urgent work to develop new powers to tackle all forms of hostile state activity, and to ensure that those seeking to carry out such activity cannot enter the UK, and additional steps to suspend all planned high-level contacts between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation,” she said.

May said the Russian diplomats have a week to leave Britain.

She also announced a range of economic and diplomatic measures, including a decision to cancel all high-level bilateral contacts with Russia and to ask the royal family not attend the soccer World Cup in Russia.

Russia has denied responsibility in the March 4 attack on the Skripals.

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Security expert says Russia not afraid to ‘flex its muscle’

As Russia thumbs its nose at accusations of meddling in the affairs of Britain and the US, an international security expert says Moscow is playing the part of resurgent superpower.

“It doesn’t have military capability equal to the United States, but it’s certainly Number Two,” says Andre Gerolymatos, co-director of the Terrorism, Risk and Security Studies Program at Simon Fraser University, adding that President Vladimir Putin will cement his hold on power in the upcoming Russian election. “Putin is basically running a quasi-dictatorship. He won’t allow anyone to beat him. Anyone who comes close will vanish in the night.”

Gerolymatos feels Putin has managed to transform Russia’s global image.

“When he took over, Russia was in a mess. It was falling apart with then-president Boris Yeltsin an alcoholic and drunk most of the time. He’s taken Russia and re-emerged the country as a major power,” he tells NEWS 1130. “The economy is not doing as great as it was, but certainly he has restored their dignity and their status as power to be respected. And if you look at what’s going on in the Middle East, Russia is the dominant power there.”

But while Moscow may be returning to a Cold War-like relationship with the West, Gerolymatos believes that’s not the case when it comes to America’s Commander-in-Chief.

“I think Trump adores Putin and looks up to him. Trump likes very strong men, dictators and authoritarian figures. Putin may have a Cold War relationship with United States of America, but not necessarily with Donald Trump.”

Gerolymatos suggests Russia will likely continue to focus on the affairs of the United States, but meddling has not been as much of a concern in Canada.

“As far as I can tell, and as far as has been reported, the Russians haven’t done very much here. But who knows? Maybe they will in the next federal election.”