The US is closing its consulate in St Petersburg as the West and Russia continue to expel diplomats.The British government is considering Russia’s request for access to the poisoned daughter of a former Russian intelligence officer who was convicted of spying for Britain.
The Foreign Office said in a statement it was reviewing the Russian request “in line with our obligations under international and domestic law.”
The government’s consideration will include “the rights and wishes of Yulia Skripal”, a Russian citizen who was poisoned along with her father in England, the Foreign Office said on Saturday.
Russian officials have insisted they have a legal right to see Skripal, 33. She lived in Moscow and was visiting her father, Sergei Skripal, when they were attacked with a nerve agent on March 4.
British officials say she is recovering in hospital while her father remains in a critical condition.
The Russian embassy in London called the woman’s recovery “good news” in a tweet on Friday and said Russian diplomats had a right to see her under the terms of the 1968 Consular Convention.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has blamed the Russian government for the attack on the Skripals, a charge denied by the Kremlin.
May has received strong backing from the US and allies in Europe as well as that have accepted Britain’s view that the Russian state was responsible for the use of a lethal nerve agent.
The case has escalated East-West tensions, with both sides expelling each other’s diplomats.
Workers busily loaded boxes and bags on to trucks outside the US consulate in St. Petersburg, which Russia has ordered closed by Saturday evening.
In brief comments to reporters, Consul-General Thomas Leary said “We are ready to leave.”
Russians watching the activity expressed mixed views on the closure.
“The American side always knows that we can strike back if we are attacked,” Valentina Petrova, 77, said.
But 24-year-old Artem Zykov saw it differently.
“Russia should have found different mechanisms to respond without such radical measures,” Zykov said.
In another illustration of the deteriorating relations, the Russian embassy in Britain complained about the alleged search of a Russian airliner at London’s Heathrow Airport.
The embassy said British Border Forces and Customs officers searched an Aeroflot flight from Moscow on Friday in violation of international rules.
In a tweet, the embassy called the search “another blatant provocation by the British authorities”.
British officials responded Saturday that it is routine to search some incoming flights.
Russia has sent a diplomatic note demanding an explanation of the search.