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Russia calls Britain's expulsion of Russian diplomat 'unfriendly'

RIA Novosti

14:09 22/12/2010

MOSCOW, December 22 (RIA Novosti) - British Foreign Secretary William Hague's decision to expel a Russian diplomat from the UK was "unfriendly," the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, as the latest spat threatens to sabotage the recent improvement in relations.

"The British side made an unfriendly move recently by groundlessly declaring one of the staff members at our embassy in London a persona non grata," the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We had to take adequate measures in response. It is regrettable that the move was made just as the first reassuring tendencies in our relations with Britain were beginning to emerge," the statement said.

In a written statement on Tuesday, Hague said that on December 10 he had asked the Russian embassy in London to "withdraw a member of their staff from the UK," following "clear evidence of activities by the Russian intelligence services against UK interests."

He said Russia had responded on December 16 by requesting the removal of a member of the British Embassy staff in Moscow.

Britain remained "open to a more productive relationship with Russia," he added.

The latest tit-for-tat expulsions are the first since former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband ordered three Russian diplomats out of Britain after the Kremlin refused to extradite ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi, who was accused of killing Russian apostate Alexander Litvinenko in May 2007. Moscow expelled four British diplomats in response.

Officials insisted the case was not linked to the arrest this month of alleged spy Katia Zatuliveter, 25, a Russian working as an aide for Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock.

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