15/03/2018 3:50 PM IST | Updated 16/03/2018 1:24 AM IST

U.S., European Countries Bash Russia As Spy Poisoning Spat Intensifies

The move comes after Russia announced its intention to oust British diplomats.

The governments of the United States, Britain, France and Germany released a blistering joint statement condemning Russia on Thursday, hours after the Kremlin said it plans to expel British diplomats.

“This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,” the statement said. “It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a State party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law. It threatens the security of us all.”

Russia’s move appeared to be in retaliation against the U.K., which had announced a day earlier that it would boot Russian diplomats amid the investigation into the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

“I would like to inform you that several diplomatic notes have been sent to the Foreign Office via the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Sputnik on Thursday. “They sought to launch an active dialogue with officials in London … We’ve received meaningless formal replies.”

Zakharova accused the U.K. of a yearslong anti-Russian campaign to push Russian diplomats out of the country.

Both countries accuse the other of failing to cooperate in the poisoning investigation.

A day earlier, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats from the U.K. since the Cold War. She said all signs in the poisoning point to Russia, but the Russians rebuffed her demand for an explanation with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance.”

Skripal and his daughter, who were found poisoned on a bench in England earlier this month, remain hospitalized in critical but stable condition. The nerve agent used in the attack, novichok, was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

This article has been updated to include more details from the statement.