Russia expels British diplomat, after UK orders Moscow's military attache to leave 'for spying'

17 May 2024, 05:47

Captain Adrian Coghill has been expelled from Russia
Captain Adrian Coghill has been expelled from Russia. Picture: Alamy/LinkedIn

By Kit Heren

Russia has told a British diplomat he has a week to leave the country, in an apparent retaliation after the UK expelled Moscow's military attache.

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Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said that the expulsion of Captain Adrian Coghill, a Royal Naval officer based at the British Embassy in Moscow, was a "desperate move" from the Kremlin.

Captain Coghill was ordered to get out of Russia within seven days, according to a post on the Russian foreign ministry's Telegram channel.

It comes after Britain ordered Maxim Elovik, Russia's defence attache, in London to leave, claiming he was a spy.

Mr Shapps said: "Russia's expulsion of the UK's defence attache (DA) is a desperate move.

Read more: Russia 'amasses more than half a million troops on front line,' with outlook 'bleak' for Ukraine

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Captain Adrian Coghill
Captain Adrian Coghill. Picture: LinkedIn

"Whilst Russia's DA in the UK was acting as a spy, Putin's only issue with ours was that they personified the UK's unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of his illegal and barbaric invasion.

Russia said that the expulsion of Elovik was "Russophobic", adding that this would not be the end of the matter, and "further retaliatory steps" would be announced.

Announcing the expulsion of Elovik, Home Secretary James Cleverly also told MPs that the UK would remove the diplomatic premises status afforded to several Russian properties in the UK because the government believed they had been "used for intelligence purposes."

Those are Seacox Heath House, a 19th century Grade II-listed mansion in East Sussex, and a large property in Highgate, an exclusive neighbourhood in north London.

Grant Shapps said the expulsion was a "desperate move"
Grant Shapps said the expulsion was a "desperate move". Picture: Alamy

It comes as Russia launched an offensive in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine late last week, forcing thousands of civilians to flee their homes, and with the city itself - the second largest after Kyiv - bombarded overnight on Friday.

The move added further pressure on Ukraine's outnumbered and outgunned forces, which are waiting for delayed deliveries of weapons and ammunition from Western partners.

The Kremlin also issued a fresh World War Three threat to the West, with a Putin ally warning of a "global catastrophe".

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, warned that Ukraine is "dragging the United States and Europe" into a global war.

"The Kyiv regime is dragging the United States and European countries into a big war," said Mr Volodin, who is also a close ally of Putin's and a member of Russia's Security Council.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture: Alamy

He said that lawmakers in Ukraine were trying to convince the US to allow them to use their weapons to strike Russia.

"This path leads to a tragedy that can affect all of humanity," he said.

"Western politicians need to realise their responsibility and do everything to avoid bringing the situation to a global catastrophe."

The remarks came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that America had not "encouraged or enabled strikes outside of Ukraine, but ultimately Ukraine has to make decisions for itself about how it's going to conduct this war".

"We've been clear about our own policy, but again, these are decisions that Ukraine has to make, Ukraine will make for itself," he said.

Ukraine has said it has the right to attack Russia after having been hit by their missiles on a daily basis.

But the US has voiced concern over its weapons being used for a direct attack, amid fears it could trigger World War Three.