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Britain expels four Russian diplomats

The British government has expelled four Russian diplomats, in revenge for Russia’s refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko (as predicted last week).  British Foreign Minister David Miliband told Parliament:

Spy WarningWe have chosen to expel four diplomats, four particular diplomats, in order to send a clear and proportionate signal to the Russian government about the seriousness of this case.”

No mention of who the diplomats are at this stage, or why they have been chosen, but I’d assume that the British government have taken the opportunity to do a bit of ‘house cleaning’ and boot out some suspected spies.

As well as expelling a few token diplomats, Miliband announced co-operation in other areas was to be dramatically scaled back, including restrictions on visas applied for by the Russian government (although not by individual Russian citizens):

“We shall review the extent of our cooperation with Russia on a range of issues, and as an initial step we have suspended visa facilitation negotiations with Russia and made other changes to visa practice.”

The move have met with cross-party support in the UK, but unsurprisingly, didn’t impress the Russian government.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry chief spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said:

“London’s position is immoral.  Moreover, in London they should clearly realise that such provocative actions masterminded by the British authorities will not be left without an answer and cannot but entail the most serious consequences for Russian-British relations”.

Strong words, and I’d expect a retaliatory expulsion within days, if not hours.  If you’re a British spy (sorry, diplomat) I’d start packing your bags.  And if you’re planning to travel to Russia on government business, I’d get your visa application in quick, before the policy changes… 

So that’s the news – now the question.  Does anyone out there actually think that today’s action will make the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi more likely? 

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