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Russian envoy says Moscow, London agreed to partially restore diplomatic missions

Russia’s chief epidemiologist Gennady Onishchenko, head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare, and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko. (en.Kremlin.ru/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia’s ambassador to Britain says the two countries have agreed to gradually reinstate dozens of diplomatic personnel who were expelled by both sides following the Novichok poisoning in Salisbury.

Aleksandr Yakovenko said in an interview with Rossia-24 television channel on December 28 that diplomatic personnel in the London and Moscow embassies would begin to be reinstated in January.

“I am not sure that it will affect all the employees, but at least half of the embassy staff will be restored,” Yakovenko said.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a nerve agent in the English city in March.

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Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the scandal, and Russia in response expelled the same number of British diplomats and ordered the closure of the British Consulate in Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, and the British Council’s offices operating in the country.

London has blamed Moscow for the poisoning, while Russia has repeatedly denied evidence that its agents were behind the poisoning and accused British intelligence agencies of staging the incident to stoke what they called “Russophobia.”

The Skripals survived the poisoning, in which a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok was used.

Two other British citizens were exposed to the same nerve agent in June, apparently by accident.

One of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.