President Donald Trump speaks after an announcement in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Martin H. Simon/Bloomberg via Pool)

May Puts Oligarchs on Alert With Visa Warning: Russia Update

(Bloomberg) -- From the U.S. and across the European Union, more than 100 Russian diplomats are being expelled in a coordinated response to the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K.

For Theresa May it represents a political triumph after the British leader presented allies with the evidence that convinced them it was highly likely Russia was to blame for the chemical attack in English town of Salisbury.

We are following developments here. The timestamps are in Brussels time.

Oligarchs and Putin Allies Put on Alert (7 p.m.)

There are a number of rich Russians with millions invested in London, a lot of it in real estate. There have been signs that the U.K. government might be looking into ways of targeting those oligarchs, that might also be Putin allies.

These rich Russians usually apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa that works for those who want to invest 2 million pounds or more in the U.K. May said she’s cracking down on “illicit and corrupt finance” and hinted she could tighten the rules that allow foreign nationals to apply for these visas.

She said Home Secretary Amber Rudd "is looking at the question of the Tier 1 investor visa and its operation," as the system is known. “We continue to look at what steps, any further steps that we can take in this area," she said.

May Is Back on and Expands on Evidence (6:43 p.m.)

May insists she has been led by evidence not speculation: “And we have information indicating that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents probably for assassination – and as part of this program has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks.”

The prime minister kicked off a debate on the topic of Russian aggression. She said 130 people in Salisbury may been exposed to the agents used and that Russia came up with “preposterous theories.” Sergei Skripal and his daughter, injured in the attack, may never fully recover, she said.

May Stands Up and Address Lawmakers (5:06 p.m.)

Premier stood up to update the House of Commons on her visit to Brussels, where she successfully made her case against Russia.

To cheers, she said: “Today 18 countries have announced their intention to expel more than 100 intelligence officers” in what she described as the “largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history.” She warned that the “challenge of Russia is one that will endure for years to come.”

Russia Promises to Get Back at U.S. and Europe (4:46 p.m.)

“This unfriendly step by this group of countries won’t pass without impact and we will respond,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a website statement, accusing the U.K.’s allies of “blindly following the principle of Euro-Atlantic unity.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the moves “mistaken” and said Russia’s response “will be guided by the principle of reciprocity.” President Vladimir Putin will make the final decision on retaliation, he said.

Canada Gets in on the Action Too (4:36 p.m.)

Canada is removing four diplomats in Montreal and denying applications for three other people.

May is due to address Parliament soon. Her office texted this: “We welcome today’s actions by our allies, which clearly demonstrate that we all stand shoulder to shoulder in sending the strongest signal to Russia that it cannot continue to flout international law.”

U.K.’s Top Diplomat Praises ‘Extraordinary’ Action (4:09 p.m.)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted: “Today’s extraordinary international response by our allies stands in history as the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever & will help defend our shared security. Russia cannot break international rules with impunity.”

Russian Stocks Are Not Liking the News (3:52 p.m.)

A catch-up with the markets:

  • The benchmark MOEX Russia Index slid as much as 0.9 percent
  • 10-year ruble bonds fell, lifted the yield four basis points
  • the ruble traded up 0.3 percent

Russians Will Take Their Time (3:48 p.m.)

The Russian state-owned news service said the Kremlin will respond in “coming days.” When May announced 23 expulsions, Russia took five days to respond and matched the expulsions and also shut down the British Council.

Let’s Add Up all the Countries So Far (3:46 p.m.)

Ukraine: 13
Germany, France, Poland: 4
Lithuania, Czech Republic: 3
Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, : 2
Estonia, Romania, Latvia, Finland: 1

No official response from Russia Yet (3:33 p.m.)

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier that Russia will respond to expulsions on the principle of reciprocity, so it seems inevitable there will be tit-for-tat retaliation.

Tusk Said More Expulsions Could Follow (3:29 p.m.)

Tusk kept open the possibility of extra expulsions of Russian officials by EU nations. Some highlights from his televised comments from Varna, Bulgaria.

  • “Already today 14 member states have decided to expel Russian diplomats; additional measures, including further expulsions within the common EU framework, are not to be excluded in the coming days and weeks”
  • “We remain critical of the actions of the Russian government”

Statement from White House (3:21 p.m.)

Here are some excerpt from the White House press secretary: “Trump ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing. ”

More: ‘The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world.”

Tusk Announces 14 EU Nations are Expelling (3:14 p.m.)

As Tusk announced the number of countries taking part in coordinated action -- 14 in total.

Italy: 2
France: 4
Netherlands: 2

Above are the latest numbers coming in.

This is German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, weighing in:

  • “It’s clear that this attack can’t remain without consequences.”
  • “We didn’t take the decision to expel Russian diplomats lightly. But the facts and the indications point to Russia. The Russian government so far hasn’t answered any open questions and has shown no readiness to want to play a constructive role in clarifying the attack.”

Ukraine Expects 13, Lithuania Targets 21 Names (3:08 p.m.)

At least 15 European nations, up from 10 are expected to act against Russia, according to the Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky. The Ukrainians in the meantime have announced via their president the expulsion of 13 Russian diplomats.

Russia stocks took a dip in reaction to the news.

Czech Republic, Denmark and Lithuania Follow Suit (3:06 p.m.)

Denmark: 2
Lithuania: 3
Czech Republic: 3

These are the number of Russia diplomats being expelled by those countries in a series of announcements.

Trump Acts, Germany Follows and Others Coming (3 p.m.)

President Donald Trump ordered 60 Russian diplomats the U.S. considers spies to leave the country in response to the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K. and closed Russia’s consulate in Seattle, senior administration officials said Monday as European allies prepared similar measures.

Germany has expelled four Russian diplomats, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin said on Twitter, citing Russia’s lack of an explanation over the Salisbury attack. “We didn’t take this decision lightly,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

Germany Expels 4 Russian Diplomats: Suddeutsche (2:40 p.m.)

Germany plans to expel four Russian diplomats in response to an alleged chemical-agent attack in the U.K., Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported. The four are officials with intelligence backgrounds to be expelled out of solidarity with U.K. as well as for lack of cooperation from Russian authorities, Sueddeutsche says, without saying where it obtained the information.

Getting close to announcements, as Tusk Tweets (2:40 pm.)

Tune in: “At 15:00 (Brussels time) Statement by President Tusk on EU member states coordinated response to the Salisbury attack.” This came through by text message from the EU.

News conferences are being organized at the same time in different countries, such as the Czech Republic.

Russia Says EU Shows ‘Perverted’ U.K. Solidarity (1:50 p.m.)

The Kremlin is not impressed with the EU. The countries planning to expel Russian diplomats in support of the U.K. are “like loyal subjects giving political support to London,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Facebook.

Bild Says Germany Looking at Expulsions (1:10 p.m.)

Germany is considering expulsion of Russian diplomats, Bild newspaper reported, citing an unidentified German official: “There are plans to expel Russian diplomats from Germany. But this should be a joint decision among a number of EU member states.”

Russia to Face Penalties From At Least 10 Countries (1 p.m.)

As many as 10 European Union countries will take a coordinated action in response to Russia’s chemical attack in the U.K. earlier this month, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

*A detailed announcement will be made at 3 p.m., according to the two people, who asked not to be identified discussing private decisions

Russia Warns of Tit-for-Tat Retaliation (12:47 p.m.)

Russia warned that it won’t take any expulsions lying down. The Kremlin hasn’t had any official information on reported U.S. plans to expel diplomats and will act reciprocally if such actions take place, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman told reporters on a conference call.

Germany Says Wait on Russia Response (12:40 p.m.)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, to reporters in Berlin on Russia measures: “We’ll report to you when there’s something to report.”

Poland, Baltic Countries to Hold News Conferences (12:38 p.m.)

Poland’s security agency detained a man working at the country’s energy ministry suspected of spying for Russia. Russia’s ambassador has been summoned to the foreign ministry in Warsaw for talks and Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz is due to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. in Warsaw.

Baltic countries will hold their own press conference at 4:10 p.m. local time to announce their reaction to the chemical weapons attack in the U.K., the Latvian foreign ministry said on Twitter.


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