It is for tit-for-tat. That is what Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Larvrov called it after Russia announced on Saturday that it has expelled 23 British diplomats and closed a British consulate in Moscow.

“Twenty-three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non-grata and to be expelled within a week,” a foreign ministry statement said.

This follows London’s “provocative” measures over the poisoning of a double agent that has triggered an escalating war of words.

And it also said it would halt the activities of the British Council in Russia.

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The Russian response was announced on the eve of a presidential election which is expected to hand Vladimir Putin a fourth term in the Kremlin, but which comes as the country appears increasingly isolated.

The crisis erupted after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to a Soviet-designed nerve agent on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury, leaving them in critical condition.

London has blamed Moscow and on Friday, even directly implicated Putin in the attack, prompting the Kremlin’s fury.