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British official calls search of Russian aircraft "routine" procedure

31 March 2018

Russia's Foreign Ministry says British authorities have boarded and searched a plane belonging to Aeroflot at London's Heathrow Airport as tensions between the two countries rise.

"Border Force and Customs officers have searched the aircraft that was conducting the Aeroflot flights 2582 / 2583, Moscow - London - Moscow". "This kind of event is extraordinary".

The Russian embassy said the British officials tried to search the aircraft without the crew being present, which is "something categorically prohibited by the rules in force". If London does not provide an explanation, Russian Federation will reserve the right to apply similar actions to British airlines.

"After the search was over, the British officers refused to provide any written document that would specify the reasons for their actions, their legal foundation and their outcome", the embassy said in the statement, suggesting that the plane had been searched in connection with the diplomatic crisis which has erupted following the Salisbury spy poisoning.

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Russia on Saturday told the United Kingdom that a total of more than 50 of its diplomats will have to leave, amid a deepening row over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil, according to a BBC report.

On Saturday, Russia's Transport Ministry also said it wanted to know what had happened.

Around 150 Russians have so far been expelled by a number of countries, with Britain kicking out 23 people, after the United Kingdom blamed Russia for a nerve agent attack on a former spy.

He insisted that once the "checks were carried out", the aircraft "was allowed to carry on with its onward journey".

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"We have witnessed another blatant provocation by the British authorities", it said of the search.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed in Salisbury on March 4 after being infected with the Novichok nerve agent which police now think was planted on their front door.

Russian Federation rejects Britain's accusation it stood behind the attack and has cast the allegations as part of an elaborate Western plot to sabotage East-West relations and isolate Moscow.

In an ongoing row between Russian Federation and the United Kingdom the Kremlin ordered a reduction of the number of diplomats in Moscow to match those in London.

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Moscow initially expelled 23 British diplomats in retaliation to the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats by London.

British official calls search of Russian aircraft