The Russian Embassy in the UK told Sputnik that it is due to reinstate about 50 percent of its overall number of diplomats in the upcoming year. Russia's Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko said Friday that the return of Russian and UK diplomats earlier reciprocally expelled from the UK and Russian embassies would start in January.
"We are not sure about all employees, but half of the embassy will be reinstated," the embassy said.
A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office has meanwhile dismissed reports of reaching any agreements on the reinstatement of staff of diplomatic missions in Russia and the UK, adding that London's position on Russia's deplomatic presence in the UK remains unchanged.
"We have had a continuous dialogue with Russia about diplomatic visas since before the events in Salisbury. We regularly exchange visas for diplomatic staff and will not comment on individual cases. No new arrangements have been agreed," a Foreign Office spokesperson told Sputnik.
"There has been no change in our position on the Russian diplomatic presence in the UK, including the measures taken after Salisbury. The staffing of our respective missions takes place within those constraints," the spokesperson said.
The embassies in the two countries have been in the center of a diplomatic row following the Skripal posioning case back in March, after which the countries reciprocally expelled 23 diplomats, in a tit-for-tat measure. Russia, despite being blamed for the incident by the UK, repeatedly denied its involvement in the case, citing the absence of evidence provided by the Brits.
Separately, the embassy in London reported a "blatant hack" of its website on December 17, "at 2:48 p.m. local time [same as GMT], after publication [of materials] about the UK interference in the Ukrainian affairs as well as critical remarks about the BBC outlet's task for its correspondent to find the Russian trace in the French protests."
In particular, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson noted last Friday that he had deployed HMS Echo, a Royal Navy ship, to the Black Sea in order to show Britain's "solidarity" with Ukraine in the wake of the Kerch Strait impasse. The embassy also earlier stated that the British authorities are deliberately trying to present Moscow as an enemy to the general public to hamper the Russian diplomats' ties with Britons.
In late November, Russia detained three Ukrainian Navy warships after they violated the Russian sea border in a bid to sail through the Kerch Strait, the entrance to the Sea of Azov.
Moscow accused Kiev of violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, with President Vladimir Putin saying that the provocation took place ahead of presidential elections in Ukraine and was aimed at spiralling Petro Poroshenko's ratings up.