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The Latest: Czechs, Swedes, Slovaks reject nerve agent claim

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The British Union flag flies from the front of a car as British ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow attends a meeting at the Russian foreign ministry building in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, March 17, 2018. Russia's Foreign Ministry has summoned Bristow for talks in a heightening dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain. Russia is expected to announce the expulsion of some British diplomats in a retaliatory measure. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain (all times local):

9:55 p.m.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden are all rejecting a suggestion by a Russian spokeswoman that the nerve agent which poisoned a former Russian double agent and his daughter might have originated in their countries.

The claim was made Saturday by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who told Russia-24 television that the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Britain or Sweden were likely sources of the nerve agent.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted that she "forcefully rejects (the) unacceptable and unfounded allegation" adding that "Russia should answer UK questions instead."

Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky called it an "absurd accusation."

Britain blames Russia for the nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were found unconscious March 4 in the English city of Salisbury and remain in critical condition.

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7 p.m.

A Russian lawmaker is blaming Britain for the escalating tensions between London and Moscow over the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter.

Hours after Russia on Saturday announced that 23 British diplomats would be expelled, Konstantin Kosachev told The Associated Press "this is not our choice, definitely. We have not raised any tensions in our relations, it was the decision by the British side without evidence."

Kosachev is the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament.

Britain blames Russia for the nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were found unconscious in the British city of Salisbury on March 4 and remain in critical condition.

Britain this week ordered 23 Russian diplomats to leave but Russia claims Britain has presented no evidence to back its allegations.

Kosachev says "I believe sooner or later we will learn the truth and this truth will be definitely very unpleasant for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom" and others who he says "have absolutely blindly supported this theory of Russian involvement."

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4:40 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says the West's angry reaction to a nerve agent attack in Britain is connected to the war in Syria.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Saturday reiterated Russian denials of involvement in the poisoning attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. She denied the existence of the nerve agent Novichok that Britain said was used against them.

Speaking on Russia-24 television, Zakharova said Britain is taking a tough line against Russia because of frustration at recent advances of Russian-backed Syrian government forces against Western-backed rebels.

Zakharova said the West is trying to "distract attention from what they did in Syria and Iraq" and that Britain "needs to somehow show the world that Russia is not in fact a peacekeeper but is playing its own game."

Britain has expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning, and Russia expelled British diplomats in response.

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3:40 p.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain "will consider our next steps in the coming days alongside our allies and partners" in a dispute with Russia over the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy on British soil.

May says the March 4 attack on Sergei Skripal is a "flagrant breach of international law and the chemical weapons convention."

May spoke after Moscow announced the expulsion of 23 British diplomats, in response to the U.K.'s decision to boot out the same number of Russian embassy staff.

May told a Conservative Party meeting in London Saturday that Britain had expected the Russian move.

May has said the Russian state is responsible for the attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Russia denies responsibility.

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2:15 p.m.

British police are trying to reconstruct the movements of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the crucial hours before they were found unconscious from nerve agent poisoning.

Detectives are appealing for witnesses who may have seen Sergei Skripal's burgundy BMW on the morning of March 4.

They want to know where the car was between 9:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., when it was spotted driving toward the center of Salisbury, 90 miles (145 kms) southwest of London.

Police say the Skripals went to a pub and an Italian restaurant in the city before being discovered collapsed on a bench at 4:15 p.m.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu says 250 counterterrorism officers are working "around the clock" on the case. It says 400 witnesses have already given statements.

Britain blames Russia for the attack, which has left the Skripals in critical condition and a police officer seriously ill in a Salisbury hospital.

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2 p.m.

The British government has confirmed the expulsion of 23 of its diplomats from Russia, and says the U.K. National Security Council will meet early next week to consider the next steps in its dispute with Moscow over the poisoning of a former spy.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that it had expected the Russian retaliation, which includes closing the British consulate in St. Petersburg and barring cultural organization the British Council.

Britain has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a Soviet-developed nerve agent.

The Foreign Office says "Russia's response doesn't change the facts of the matter — the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable."

It says "the onus remains on the Russian state to account for their actions and to comply with their international obligations

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12:55 p.m.

A Russian lawmaker is warning Britain against escalating the crisis over the poisoning of a former Russian spy. Moscow and London have both ordered diplomats expelled in the deepening dispute.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, spoke Saturday after Russia ordered 23 British diplomats leave the country and that the British Council in Russia be closed.

Britain this week ordered 23 Russian diplomats to leave the country, saying that Russia was not cooperating in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, both found March 4 poisoned by a nerve agent that British officials say was developed in Russia.

"It is possible that (Britain) will continue to respond; we are ready for this. But London must understand that this will not do anything, it is useless to talk with Russia with such methods," Dzhabarov was quoted as saying by the state news agency RIA Novosti.

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12:25 p.m.

Britain's ambassador to Russia says the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain was an attack on international values.

Ambassador Laurie Bristow spoke Saturday after being called to the Russian Foreign Ministry to be informed that Russia will expel 23 diplomats, a tit-for-tat retaliation to Britain's announcement this week that 23 Russians would be expelled.

"We will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies and our values against an attack of this sort, which is an attack not only on the United Kingdom, but upon the international rules-based system on which all countries, including Russia, depend for their safety and security," Bristow told reporters.

"This crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack in the United Kingdom, the attempted murder of two people, using a chemical weapon developed in Russia and not declared by Russia at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as Russia was and is obliged to do under the Chemical Weapons Convention," he said.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in critical condition after the March 4 attack.

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11:30 a.m.

Russia's government is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it is also ordering the closure of the British Council in Russia and ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

It ordered the diplomats to leave within a week.

The statement said the government could take further measures if Britain takes any more "unfriendly" moves toward Russia.

British Prime Minister Theresa May this week expelled 23 Russian diplomats and severed high-level contacts over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. They remain in critical condition in hospital.

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10:20 a.m.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has summoned the British ambassador to Russia for talks in a heightening dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

Russia is expected to announce the expulsion of some British diplomats in a retaliatory measure. British Prime Minister Theresa May this week ordered 23 Russian diplomats expelled as part of measures to punish Russia over the March 4 poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury.

British Ambassador Laurie Bristow is expected at the Russian Foreign Ministry late Saturday morning.

Britain's foreign secretary accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the poisoning. Putin's spokesman denounced the claim.