Russia announces tit-for-tat expulsions of Western diplomats, will close US consulate in St. Petersburg | News | DW | 29.03.2018
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Russia announces tit-for-tat expulsions of Western diplomats, will close US consulate in St. Petersburg

Russia says it will expel foreign diplomats on the same scale as the number of Russian envoys who were expelled from other countries. US diplomats have until April 5 to leave the country.

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Russia to expel 60 diplomats, close US consulate

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kremlin would retaliate in kind after countries expelled diplomats following the poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK.

The decision is the latest in the diplomatic fallout that began after Britain accused Russia of responsibility for the nerve agent attack in early March.

Read more: Germany, other countries expel Russian diplomats over Skripal poisoning

What Lavrov said:

  • The Foreign Ministry told US Ambassador Jon Huntsman that Russia would expel 60 US diplomats — 58 officials in Moscow and two at the US consulate in Yekaterinburg — and close the US consulate in St. Petersburg.
  • The consulate would have to suspend work by March 31, while the diplomats would have to leave Russia by April 5.
  • The decision was in response to the US decision to expel the same number of Russian diplomats and close the Russian consulate in Seattle.
  • Russia would also retaliate equivalently to two dozen other countries, including Germany, that expelled Russian diplomats.
  • Russia was reacting to "absolutely unacceptable actions that are taken against [them] under very harsh pressure from the United States and Britain under the pretext of the so-called Skripal case."
Jon Huntsman in Myrtle Beach (picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Dharapak)

US Ambassador Jon Huntsman was informed about the decision at the Russian Foreign Ministry

How the White House reacted: Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, said the move by Moscow marked a "further deterioration in the United States-Russia relationship," but that it "was not unanticipated."

"The expulsion of undeclared Russian intelligence officers by the United States and more than two dozen partner nations and NATO allies earlier this week was an appropriate response to the Russian attack on the soil of the United Kingdom," Sanders said.

What Russia is responding to: Two dozen countries, including the US, many EU countries and NATO, announced last week that they would together expel more than 150 Russian diplomatssuspected of being spies in response to the poisoning. The move followed the UK's decision to expel 23 Russian envoys.

The US State Department said there was "no justification" for the expulsion of US diplomats and added that it "reserved the right to respond."

Read more: Salisbury nerve agent attack: Russian spy's daughter Yulia Skripal 'improving'

What the spat is about: Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found in critical condition on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury on March 4. British scientists said the two were attacked using a Russian-made nerve agent called "Novichok." The UK subsequently accused Russia of responsibility for the attack.

What happens next: Lavrov said Moscow had called a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for Monday to discuss the case. The watchdog has been analyzing the Novichok sample in collaboration with UK authorities.

amp,es/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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