Ecuador's government put a social media squeeze on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, announcing Wednesday that his Internet connection in its embassy in London had been cut off.
The decision came after an angry clash of words between Assange and a British minister over the British government's response to an alleged Russian nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Alan Duncan described Assange as a "miserable little worm" who should leave the embassy and turn himself in to British authorities.
Assange returned fire on Twitter: "As a political prisoner detained without charge for 8 years, in violation of 2 UN rulings, I suppose I must be "miserable"; yet nothing wrong with being a "little" person although I'm rather tall; and better a "worm," a healthy creature that invigorates the soil, than a snake."
Ecuador granted Assange political asylum in the embassy in 2012. Assange at the time was facing possible extradition from Britain to Sweden for investigation of sex-related claims. That case was dropped, but Assange says he fears the U.S. will seek his extradition to face charges related to leaks of sensitive government information.
Assange, 46, also could face arrest for essentially fleeing while free on bail in Britain. A judge in February refused to throw out the warrant.
Under the agreement with the Ecuadorian government, Assange is not permitted to disrupt the South American nation's relations with other countries. But Assange hit a nerve in Britain after using Twitter to challenge the British government's response to the alleged Russian nerve agent attack.
Britain retaliated by expelling Russian diplomats, and the U.S. and more than 20 other countries followed the U.K.'s lead.
Assange tweeted that the evidence was circumstantial and the retaliation premature. He said Britain should have waited for the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to confirm details of the attack. He suggested that the quick expulsion decision "helps the Kremlin further a narrative that it is under conspiratorial siege led by the US."
Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006 and rocketed to fame — and infamy four years later with the release of more than 700,000 documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. Manning obtained the documents as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Contributing: The Associated Press