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Russia: We'll exert maximum pressure on Britain over spy poisoning - Ifax

A police officer stands at a cordon around the bench where former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found after they were poisoned, in Salisbury, Britain March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, said on Friday that Moscow would exert maximum pressure on London in a standoff over the poisoning of a former spy, the Interfax news agency cited him as saying.

London’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning amounted to a 40 percent staff cut and would seriously affect the work of his embassy, he was also cited as saying.

In an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel, Yakovenko also accused Britain of cranking up its aggression against Moscow in order to distract the British public from the difficulties it was having managing the country’s 2019 exit from the European Union.

Russia denies Britain’s allegations that it was involved in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, the former double agent, and his daughter Yulia, in southern England.

Britain, the United States, Germany and France have jointly called on Russia to explain the military-grade nerve toxin attack, which they said threatened Western security.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe