Europe steps up pressure on Russian Federation over spy attack

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Speaking after a special summit of European Union leaders concluded in Brussels, Mr Macron said it was highly likely Russian Federation was behind the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

British Prime Minister Theresa May briefed other European Union leaders on the probe into the attack over a summit dinner on Thursday. He said the Kremlin specifically regrets the "recall [of the envoy] for consultations".

A senior foreign diplomat told CNN that Germany, France, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Ireland and several others will "likely" expel the Russians on Monday.

Diplomatic pressure is growing on Moscow over its role in the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury in early March.

The assault stoked British rage over what UK Prime Minister Theresa May called "a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil".

Macron told a joint news conference with Merkel after the summit in Brussels that the March 4 incident - for which Russian Federation denies responsibility - was "a serious challenge to our security and... an attack on European sovereignty".

The Skripals are both in a coma after being found collapsed on a park bench, although a policeman who was also contaminated was released from hospital on Thursday.

Mrs May, who set out Britain's case against the Kremlin over dinner last night, welcomed the strong recognition of the threat Russian Federation posed to their collective security.

During a summit dinner, May laid out the reasons Britain is convinced Moscow was behind the attack, including the type of poison used — a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok — and intelligence that Russian Federation has produced it within the last decade.

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What is crucial is that there was recognition around the table about the threat that Russian Federation poses.

"I think it is clear that Russian Federation is challenging the values we share as Europeans, and it is right that we are standing together in defence of those values".

French president Emmanuel Macron described the recent use of a nerve agent in Salisbury as an "attack on European sovereignty". France was asked for technical cooperation, and answered positively.

Tusk said in a statement: "It is very hard to prepare an adequate reaction to this kind of behaviour like a nerve agent attack. We will never have a real chance to respond adequately because we are completely different to the perpetrators of this attack".

Prior to Wednesday's meeting, one State Department source told CNN the move would be considered a "very serious step", especially given the last round of tit-for-tat expulsions that have left both Russian Federation and the USA with significantly smaller diplomatic forces in each other's countries.

"I think it was the best reaction we were able to decide on", he said.

In a hint at the underlying tensions, he acknowledged that not all member states would be taking further measures.

More than one in four of the suspect posts identified by United Kingdom officials were created by just six accounts.

In response, Artyom Kozhin, Russia's foreign ministry spokesman, said: 'We regret that the European Union chose to follow another anti-Russian campaign launched by London and its allies from across the ocean'.

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