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The Latest: Russian envoys leave Washington to head home

March 31, 2018

Bus passengers hold up a Russian flag as they leave the Russian Embassy in Washington, Saturday, March 31, 2018. A group of Russian diplomats, who earlier in the week were ordered by the US Administration to leave the country, and their families have left Russia's embassy and will fly to Moscow. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. (all times local):

7:50 p.m.

In Washington, some of the 60 Russian diplomats being expelled from the United States in the poisoned spy dispute have been seen boarding a bus and leaving the Russian Embassy in the U.S. capital.

The Russian state news agency Tass said the first group of expelled diplomats and their families left the embassy compound on Saturday to fly to Moscow.

The U.S. said those expelled were intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover, including 48 from the embassy and 12 posted to Russia’s mission to the United Nations. They were given a week to leave the country.

Britain says the Russian government was involved in the March 4 nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain, a charge that Russia denies. Hundreds of diplomats are being expelled from both the West and Russia in the dispute.

The US continued to vacate its consulate in St. Petersburg on Saturday afternoon after Russia ordered its closure and the expulsion of 60 US diplomats. (March 31)

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7:15 p.m.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has released lists of questions that it wants Britain and France to answer in connection with the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in a British city in early March.

Britain blames Russia in the case, which Russia adamantly denies. The dispute has set off sweeping expulsions of Russian diplomats from Britain and some of its allies, followed by retaliatory expulsions of their diplomats from Russia.

The questions — 14 to Britain and 10 to France — concentrate on French investigators’ involvement in the poisoning probe, including asking on what basis France became involved and asking what level of expertise they had.

Britain says the investigation has shown the ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union.

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6:45 p.m.

Russia’s embassy in London is warning that Russians travelling to the United Kingdom could face provocations, including the insertion of foreign objects into their luggage.

The warning, posted Saturday on the embassy website, said it reflected “the anti-Russian policy, the growing threatening rhetoric of the British side (and) the British government’s selective actions against Russian individuals and legal entities.”

Britain accuses Russia of involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury, which Russia heatedly denies.

Each country has expelled 23 of the other’s diplomats and Russia has further ordered Britain to reduce its staffing at the embassy in Moscow to the same level Russia maintains in London.

Tension escalated further late Friday when British officers searched an Aeroflot passenger plane at Heathrow airport.

The Russian statement said “we urge the close monitoring of personal belongings and luggage in order to avoid provocations with foreign objects being placed in them.”

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2 p.m.

The British government is considering Russia’s request for access to the daughter of a former Russian intelligence officer who were both poisoned in Britain by a nerve agent

The Foreign Office say Saturday it was reviewing the Russian request to meet with Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen, “in line with our obligations under international and domestic law.” The government’s consideration will include “the rights and wishes of Yulia Skripal,” it said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has blamed the Russian government for the attack on the Skripals, a charge denied by the Kremlin. May has received strong backing from the United States and her allies in Europe, which have accepted Britain’s view that the Russian government was responsible for the use of a lethal nerve agent.

Russian officials insist they have a legal right to see the 33-year-old Skripal, who lived in Moscow and was visiting her father, Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury when they were attacked March 4 with a nerve agent.

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