Moscow says United Kingdom must recall over 50 more diplomats from Russian Federation

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Australian envoy Peter Tesch was among the diplomats told their staff would be expelled from Russian Federation. "The Brits have 50 diplomats more than the Russians", Zakharova said.

Preparations appeared to be under way on Friday to close the St Petersburg mission down, with a removals truck making repeated journeys to and from the consulate, which took delivery of a large pizza order for its staff.

This comes after on Thursday Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov promised to expel diplomats from those countries that had expelled Russian diplomats in a move of support for UK Prime Minister Theresa May's accusations regarding Moscow's involvement in the poisoning of Ex-GRU officer Sergei Skripal.

Russia has already retaliated in kind against Britain and ejected 23 British diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

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But both sides - with a joint interest in improving security cooperation and economic relations - will also not want the talks to fail.

"We are considering requests for consular access in line with our obligations under worldwide and domestic law, including the rights and wishes of Yulia Skripal", a Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP. This includes the USA under President Donald Trump, who Putin had hoped would improve ties. London says Moscow was behind the attack - an allegation Russian Federation denies.

She is now in a "stable" condition - with the BBC reporting that she was conscious and talking. Bristow was one of the representatives of European countries that had been summoned to the Russia's Foreign Ministry, along with ambassadors of Italy, Poland, Netherlands, Albania, Romania, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Greece.

All were seen arriving in their official cars at the foreign ministry's gothic building in Moscow.

"We can confirm that four Canadian diplomats have been declared persona non grata by the Russian government", he said.

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