LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday ordered the immediate expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats believed to be involved in espionage, in the first reprisals against Moscow for a chemical attack on a former double agent.
May, speaking to Parliament, said the response would include a halt to high-level meetings between British and Russian officials and the cancellation of a planned visit to Britain by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
She also said the royal family and government ministers would boycott this summer’s World Cup soccer tournament in Russia. More countermeasures — some clandestine — are under consideration.
The prime minister repeated the conclusion of British investigators that Russia had either deployed or lost control of a dangerous nerve agent used in the attack targeting former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33.
May said Russia’s dismissive response to her demand for an explanation has “demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events.”