The EU has recalled its ambassador to Moscow after leaders agreed it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for a nerve agent attack in the UK.
The European Council of EU leaders said there was “no plausible alternative”.
Moscow denies responsibility for the attack on an ex-spy and his daughter and said the EU was following an “anti-Russian campaign launched by London”.
Meanwhile, British diplomats expelled from Russia have left the embassy in Moscow ahead of Russia’s deadline.
Russia decided to expel the British diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to the UK’s expulsion of 23 of its diplomats.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in a critical but stable condition after the attack on 4 March.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said the Salisbury poisoning is “part of a pattern of Russian aggression against Europe”.
The EU said its ambassador to Russia, German Markus Ederer, was recalled “for consultations” and was expected in Brussels over the weekend.
The European Council statement added: “We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom in the face of this grave challenge to our shared security.”
In response, Russia’s foreign ministry said: “We regret that the EU chose to follow another anti-Russian campaign launched by London and its allies from across the ocean with the obvious purpose of creating yet another obstacle to normalising the situation on the European continent.”
Mrs May briefed her counterparts on Thursday on the poisoning of the Skripals, who were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who became ill after responding to the incident, is no longer in a serious condition and has been discharged from hospital.
The prime minister set out the evidence the UK has against Russia – including the positive identification of the chemical used as a type of Novichok nerve agent and the knowledge that Russia has produced this agent within the last 10 years.
Source : BBC News