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After Skripal attack, U.K. squanders a chance to stand up to Russia

Theresa May leaving 10 Downing Street
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP / Getty Images

The U.K. announced today that it would expel 23 Russian diplomats and cut off high-level diplomatic contact with Russia, in response to the attempted assassination in London last week of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence agent.

Skripal was poisoned with Novichok, a dangerous nerve agent known to have been produced in Russia, which also infected his daughter. Individuals near the scene, some 500 in all, were advised to disinfect their belongings.

Why it matters: This attack is the latest in a string of Russia-linked assassinations on British soil, which include the 2006 polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, also a former Russian intelligence officer, and 14 other Russian nationals who died under mysterious circumstances, such as the oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Yet the Skripal case stands out as particularly egregious and escalatory.