Russian President Vladimir Putin
Photo: AP Images

In response to the United Kingdom’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats, Russia will return the favor by kicking 23 British diplomats out of the country, the BBC reports.

In addition, both the U.K. consulate and the British Council, which promotes cultural ties between the two countries, in St. Petersburg, Russia, will close. British Prime Minister Theresa May said that her government had anticipated the response, adding, “We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian government.”

The diplomatic drama started after Russian former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in England earlier this month, according to the BBC. They were poisoned with a deadly nerve agent, Novichok. Both remain critically ill. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely ordered the attacks, according to the New York Times.

It is not clear whether Johnson’s claim is the official government stance, since neither May nor any other high-ranking official has made such a claim tying the poisoning directly to Putin. Johnson is known for speaking beyond official government talking points, the Times reports.

As usual, the Kremlin denies any involvement in the recent poisonings.

In 2006, Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko died after being poisoned with polonium in England. The substances used in Litvinenko’s and the Skripals’ poisonings aren’t normally used by criminal gangs and are usually made in government-controlled labs, Yahoo! News reports.