Nerve agent attack: Dozens of Russian diplomats expelled across globe

Some 60 Russians are to be expelled from the US, while suspected intelligence officers in Canada, Ukraine, Australia, Albania, Macedonia and a number of EU states will also be ejected.

Forty-eight of those being kicked out of the US are attached to Russian diplomatic missions and the other 12 are accredited to the United Nations in New York.

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The US has also announced that the Russian consulate in Seattle will close, due to its proximity to a submarine base and a Boeing aerospace plant.

The expulsions are part of a co-ordinated international response to the poisoning of ex-Soviet double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, which has been blamed on Russia.

Moscow has denied a role in the attack and its UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, told reporters on Monday that the consulate closure and expulsions were “a very unfortunate, very unfriendly move”.

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Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry warned: “This provocative gesture of notorious solidarity with London, made by countries that preferred to follow in London’s footsteps without bothering to look into other circumstances of the incident, merely continues the policy of escalating the confrontation.”

On Twitter, the Russian Embassy in Washington DC asked followers to vote on which US consulate should be closed, listing Vladivostok, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg as options.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said more than 100 Russians had been expelled from various countries, in what she described as the “largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history”.

She told the Commons: “I have found great solidarity from our friends and partners in the EU, North America, NATO and beyond over the last three weeks as we have confronted the aftermath of the Salisbury incident.

“Together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values.”

The Skripals remain in a coma and are unlikely to recover fully, Mrs May said, adding that some 130 other people had potentially been exposed to the nerve agent in Salisbury.

“This shows the utterly barbaric nature of this act, and the dangers that hundreds of innocent citizens in Salisbury could have faced,” the Prime Minister said.

Also in the Commons, a Labour backbencher accused Jeremy Corbyn of making false claims after the party leader insisted he had been a “robust critic of the actions of the Russian government for more than 20 years”.

John Woodcock said: “I was not intending to intervene in this, but I cannot actually let that remark go by.

“I’ve sat here reading his article in the Morning Star after Russia annexed part of Ukraine, where the strongest criticism he makes there is ‘on Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion, but it is not unprovoked’.

“And then into the usual criticism of the US and NATO and UK policy. It’s just not true.”

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