Britain to expel 23 Russian diplomats, freeze Russian state assets

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

"Under the Vienna Convention, the United Kingdom will now expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers," May told parliament. "They have just one week to leave."

May said the biggest expulsions from London in 30 years would degrade Russian intelligence capabilities in Britain for years to come.

"We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents," May said.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas, editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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Donald Trump, Theresa May meet at White House
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade of the West Wing at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade of the West Wing at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May with U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump escorts British Prime Minister Theresa May after their meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump participate in a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) participate in a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) participate in a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May ,participate in a joint press conference at the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May ,participate in a joint press conference at the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and US President Donald Trump shake hands beside a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the Oval Office of the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May with U.S. President Donald Trump in The Oval Office at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and US President Donald speak in the Oval Office of the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump listens while British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a press conference at the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May with U.S. President Donald Trump in The Oval Office at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, smiles during a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. The British prime minister is planning to pitch a free-trade deal to the new U.S. leader just as the reality of a new era of protection for American workers sinks in. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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