A top Russian lawmaker says the European Union's support for British accusations blaming Russia for an ex-spy's poisoning reflects a pattern of using Moscow as a bugaboo.
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper of the Russian parliament, criticized the EU for putting solidarity above "not only stability in Europe, but facts and common sense."
The 27 other EU leaders agreed with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday that it is "highly likely" Russia is responsible for the attack in England on Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Russia has fiercely denied the accusations.
Kosachev says many in the EU are "cynically" using the perception of a Russian threat to achieve domestic goals, ranging "from raising NATO budgets ... to distracting attention from the fallout from Britain's exit from the EU."
Skripal was a Russian military intelligence officer who was convicted of spying for Britain. He was imprisoned in Russia and released as part of a spy swap with the West.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says his country won't expel Russian diplomats because it considers keeping open channels of communication important.
Several European countries said Friday they may follow Britain in expelling Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in England.
But Kurz told reporters after an EU summit in Brussels Friday: "We decided not to do this because we are of the opinion that is important to maintain channels of dialogue."
The chancellor pointed to Vienna's "traditionally good contacts" with Russia and said his government will use them to press Moscow to help clarify the nerve agent attack.
He added: "We respect the decision of European states that want to go further, that take further steps, but there will be some European states that have decided to handle it exactly like us."
A senior Russian diplomat has dismissed British accusations against Moscow over the poisoning of an ex-spy as "jabber."
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov charged that Britain was trying to delude the public with anti-Russian "labels and clichés" to hide the lack of proof.
Speaking to the Tass news agency Friday, Ryabkov said Britain has refused to share evidence to support its claim that Russia was responsible for the March 4 poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent. He scoffed at British allegations of Moscow's disinformation, saying: "what kind of disinformation can we talk about if there is no information in the first place?"
Ryabkov said Russia has an "immaculate" record at the international chemical weapons watchdog, having completed the destruction of its chemical arsenals.
British police say the bench where ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious is being removed.
They said Friday the bench outside the Zizzi restaurant in the southwestern city of Salisbury will be preserved as a potential crime exhibit in the investigation of the attempted murder of the Skripals.
Police say the investigation is one of the largest and most complex ever undertaken by counterterrorism officers. It is expected to take many months.
The Skripals were found unconscious on the bench on March 4 and remain in critical condition.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel won't be drawn on what additional measures European Union nations will take against Russia over the nerve agent attack on a former spy.
Asked whether Germany and France will follow Britain in expelling Russian diplomats, Merkel replied at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron Friday that the two nations will consult with others on what to do and officials will give more details "when the coordination is complete."
But she said that "we, Germany and France, agreed that such reactions in addition to the recall of the (EU) ambassador are necessary."
The 28-nation EU has recalled its ambassador from Moscow for consultations, and several countries, including Lithuania, Latvia and the Czech Republic, say they are considering expulsions.
European Council President Donald Tusk says EU nations will take "more steps" against Moscow over the nerve agent attack in Britain.
Building on the solidarity shown with Britain during two days of summit talks in Brussels, Tusk confirmed Friday that the 28-nation group will recall its ambassador from Moscow for consultations. And Tusk said "more steps are expected at a national level" as of Monday.
The EU said it was highly likely that Russia was behind the nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury and could see no other plausible explanation for it.
The March 4 attack has left the father and daughter in critical condition.
Russia's Foreign Ministry says Moscow is not aware of immediate plans by any European countries other than Britain to expel Russian diplomats.
Several European Union countries say they plan to take measures against Russia over the poisoning of a former spy in the English city of Salisbury, and some may follow the U.K.'s lead in expelling Moscow diplomats.
The EU announced on Thursday that it would recall its ambassador from Moscow for consultations over the incident.
Artyom Kozhin, a spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, told a televised briefing Friday afternoon that officials there have not been approached by other countries about potential expulsions.
The UK has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats and their families, and Moscow responded by expelling 23 British diplomats, who are expected to return to the UK on Friday.
The president of Lithuania says EU countries plan to ramp up their actions against Russia within days over the poisoning of a former spy.
Speaking hours after the European Union said it agreed with Britain that Russia was "highly likely" to be responsible, Dalia Grybauskaite said that "from the beginning of next week, a lot of countries, we will go for our national measures."
Grybauskaite has said Lithuania may expel Russian diplomats over the attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month.
At a Brussels summit, May shared information about why Britain is convinced Moscow was behind the nerve-agent attack.
Grybauskaite said Friday that "we got more detailed information from the prime minister May and it was very good information."
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