March 26, 2018 / 8:41 PM / 5 months ago

Iceland's leaders to boycott Russia World Cup over Salisbury attack

(Reuters) - Iceland’s leaders will not attend the soccer World Cup in Russia this year as part of an international response to punish the Kremlin for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England that the British government has blamed on Moscow.

Despite the tiny island nation of just over 300,000 people making it to the finals of the world’s biggest soccer tournament, there will be no Icelandic diplomatic presence at the World Cup, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

“Among the measures taken by Iceland is the temporary postponement of all high-level bilateral dialogue with Russian authorities. Consequently, Icelandic leaders will not attend the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer,” a ministry statement said.

On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that more than 130 people may have been exposed to a nerve agent believed to have been used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

May, welcoming the show of solidarity, said 18 countries had announced plans to expel Russian officials. Those included 14 European Union countries. In total, 100 Russian diplomats were being removed, the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.

Russia has repeatedly denied responsibility for the nerve agent attack.

“So far, Russia’s response has been severely lacking,” the Icelandic Foreign Ministry statement said. “Russia must provide credible explanations on how a nerve agent originally produced in Soviet laboratories came to be used to attack civilians in the United Kingdom.”

Editing by Mark Heinrich

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