LONDON: United Kingdom Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has asked Russia to “go away and shut up” when asked how the Kremlin should respond to the expulsion of 23 of its spies by London.
The Russian Foreign Ministry commented on Williamson's tough statement, saying "it shows that Britain's partners are worried and London has things to hide," The Guardian reported.
Williamson accused Russia of “ripping up the international rulebook” through a series of actions aimed at subverting countries around the world.
He said Russia, at a time when its economy is under pressure, is still prioritising military expenditure by investing in surface-to-air missiles, T-90 tanks, advanced submarines, long-range ballistic missiles, strategic bombers and nuclear systems.
Williamson surprisingly assumed the post of the Defence Secretary in November last year, although he has no military background.
On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the alleged poisoning of a Russian ex-spy, saying that they were "undeclared intelligence officers". She further said that the diplomats will have to leave the country within a week.
The UK ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow on Tuesday was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, over the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, in the UK last week, the ministry told TASS.
Earlier on Monday, Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko was summoned to the UK Foreign Office in London in the wake of the investigation into the possible poisoning of Skripal. Prime Minister May also said on Monday that Russia was "highly likely" responsible for the attack.
Retired military intelligence officer Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on March 4. However, they remain in a critical but stable condition in a hospital.
According to the reports, Skripal was convicted by the Russian government of passing secrets to UK's Secret Intelligence Service MI6 in 2004, but was given refuge in the UK in 2010 as part of a "spy swap."