Two US diplomats in Moscow have been expelled from the country after Washington barred two Russian diplomats. The row was sparked after a US diplomat was allegedly attacked by a Russian police officer.
Two US Embassy staff members in Moscow were expelled after a similarly "unfriendly" move on the part of the United States, Russia said on Saturday.
"After their unfriendly step, two employees of the United States embassy had to leave Moscow," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a statement.
The two US diplomats were declared persona non grata, a diplomatic phrase barring a foreign person from entering or remaining in the country. Ryabkov accused the diplomats of being CIA agents who engaged in "activities incompatible with their diplomatic status."
One of those expelled was involved in an altercation with a Russian police officer last month, the deputy minister said.
"We hope that they, in Washington, will realize all the viciousness of the aggressive anti-Russia line. If they decide there to move on the path of escalation, they won't be left without a response," Ryabkov said.
Attack on US diplomat
On Friday, the US State Department announced they expelled two Russian diplomats in June over an attack on a US diplomat in Moscow.
Russia denies the US version of events and said the US diplomat was a spy who attacked the policeman as he tried to check his ID.
Video footage of the attack appears to contradict the Russian version of events. In the short clip, a man getting out of a taxi is immediately attacked by a Russian policeman who wrestles the man from the taxi to the ground. The man eventually manages to crawl into the embassy.
Moscow also accused Washington of failing to "keep their word" by announcing the expulsions after the United States asked Russia not to publicize the event.
Relations between Washington and Moscow are at a low point since Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's region of Crimea and its support of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
rs/sms (AFP, Reuters)