"There are formal members of our agency - foreign intelligence officers - among the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are very few of them. These persons, who were properly formally presented to [the authorities of] these countries as foreign intelligence officers, provided interaction with the secret services of these countries through the so-called partner channels," Naryshkin said.
He called the expulsion of Russian diplomats "a very dirty and cynical provocation," which creates an "environment of Russophobia." "The blowback will soon follow. It will be a proper retaliation, and a rather tough one," Naryshkin stressed.
As reported, Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, remain critically ill in hospital, after they were found unconscious on a bench in the Wiltshire city on March 4. The UK government says they were poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia called Novichok and PM Theresa May said she believed Moscow was "culpable."
UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats as part of a "full and robust" response – prompting Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to say it will "certainly" expel British diplomats in response.
On March 16, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had "no reason to doubt the findings and assessments by the British government" which suggested Russian responsibility. He said the "UK is not alone" and Nato allies gave "strong political support" to Britain, following a joint statement from the US, France and Germany backing Mrs May's government and a pledge of support from Australia.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said that the U.K.'s government believes that it was likely Putin's decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K.
On March 26, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States, including 12 people identified as Russian intelligence officers who have been stationed at the United Nations in New York.