Britain to expel Russian defense attache as 'undeclared spy'

Britain says it will expel Russia's defense attache from the country, claiming the person is an undeclared intelligence officer.

The British government announced on Wednesday that the move is part of steps against what it said is "malign activity" in the UK by Russia.

The government also said it will remove diplomatic premises status from several Russian properties in the country. It said they are believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

Another measure is to cap the length of time Russian diplomats can spend in Britain.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said the government is "taking action to send a strong deterrence message to Russia and to further reduce the ability" of the country's intelligence agency.

In Britain, six Bulgarian nationals were charged since last year over espionage for Russia. The UK government attributes a number of cyberattacks targeting British parliamentarians and others in recent years to Russia.

Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats after the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in the country in 2018. Some Western and other countries followed suit. In response, Russia ousted diplomats from those countries.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in an online statement on Wednesday that Moscow has warned it will respond to unfriendly actions. She added the response will be tough.