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Britain summons Russian ambassador, targets Moscow-owned homes and charges five alleged spies

By Rob Picheta, Louis Mian and Catherine Nicholls, CNN

London (CNN) — The United Kingdom has summoned the Russian ambassador and announced a swathe of new measures against Moscow, including the targeting of Russian-owned buildings that the British government said have been “used for intelligence purposes.”

UK interior minister James Cleverly said Wednesday that the country is expelling the Russian defense attaché, who was described by the Foreign Office as “an undeclared military intelligence officer.”

The measures also removed a special diplomatic status from several “Russian-owned properties,” which the government believes “have been used for intelligence purposes.”

Those properties include a building in Highgate, north London, and Seacox Heath, a mansion in the countryside in Sussex, in southern England, that is owned by Russia’s government.

Cleverly said the measures come after five Bulgarian nationals were charged “in connection with an investigation into alleged offences under the National Security Act, as part of a counterterrorism policing investigation.”

The alleged offences relate “to a suspected arson attack on a Ukraine linked business in the UK,” which British prosecutors have confirmed “relate to alleged hostile activity in the UK in order to benefit a foreign state, namely Russia,” Cleverly said.

Russia has faced waves of sanctions from the UK and other Western nations since launching its full invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, though President Vladimir Putin has sought to downplay their significance.

At an event earlier this year, Putin said: “We have growth, and they have decline… They all have problems through the roof, not even comparable to our problems,” in a message intended to minimize the significance of the West’s economic measures.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron described the new measures as an “unequivocal message to the Russian state” that “their actions will not go unanswered.”

“Since the illegal invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s attempts to undermine UK and European security have become increasingly brazen,” Cameron said.

Moscow has in the past sought to sanction Western individuals in tit-for-tat moves, barring dozens of British figures from entering the country after a previous wave of measures from London last year.

“In the coming days, we should expect accusations of Russophobia, conspiracy theories and hysteria from the Russian government,” Cleverly said as he detailed the measures in Parliament on Wednesday. “This is not new, and the British people and the British government will not fall for it and will not be taken for fools by Putin’s bots, trolls and lackeys.”

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