A man removes the Russian flag

A man removes the Russian flag

Pictures from the embassy showed a man removing the flag from the flagpole outside the consular section of the embassy.

The move sparked fears the embassy could be making a protest after Mrs May announced the largest mass expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War.

However, it later emerged it was simply being untangled and then being rehung.

Police cars were camped outside the Kensington Gardens building as tensions remained high between London and Moscow.

Today, Mrs May announced 23 suspected Russian spies were being booted out of the country.

Announcing the action in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia amounted to “an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”.

She announced the suspension of high-level contacts with Russia, including a boycott of this summer’s World Cup by Government ministers and members of the royal family.

And she said Russian state assets will be frozen “wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents”.

The flag was being untangled and rehung

The flag was being untangled and rehung

Police at the Russian embassy in London

Police at the Russian embassy in London

Russia’s embassy in London denounced the move as “unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted”, after Moscow denied any connection with the Salisbury incident.

Speaking ahead of the PM’s statement, a spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin told reporters: “Moscow won’t accept absolutely unfounded accusations against it, which are not substantiated by any evidence, and won’t accept the language of ultimatum.”

Russia’s embassy has unleashed a flurry of angry responses as the spy saga has unfolded.

Yesterday, it fired off a salvo of tweets on Tuesday warning the threat of sanctions would “meet with a response”.

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