140 Russian diplomats kicked out of US, Europe, Australia
27 March 2018
Nearly 140 Russian diplomats have been kicked out from the United States, a dozen European nations and Australia as they began ‘cleaning up’ the alleged spy network operated by Russia.
“The United States and many of our friends are sending a clear message that we will not stand for Russia's misconduct,” declared US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the move of expelling 60 Russian diplomats from the US would make it safer by reducing Russia's ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten national security.
“With these steps, the US, our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences,” she added.
The trigger for the expulsions was the poisoning on 4 March of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent in England and his daughter Yulia. The two are critical and unconscious. This was the first time a nerve toxin was used in Europe since the Second World War
Russia has vehemently denied charges that it was behind the poisoning of its former spy. “They (the allegations) border on banditry,” a Russian news agency quoted Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. “We are stating that this is quite unprecedented – international affairs bordering, maybe, on banditry. What stands behind this? Is it Britain’s internal problems or the problems of Britain’s cooperation with its allies, or something else? Looks like this is not our business.”
The UK, which has accused Russia of the poisoning, has expelled 23 Russian diplomats. Moscow retaliated by expelling a similar of British diplomats.
The US State Department informed Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov that the 60 diplomats have just one week to leave the US. The ambassador expressed his “resolute protest” over the “illegal actions” and said there was no proof of Russian involvement in the poisoning.
The American government has also ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate-General in Seattle by April mainly because of its proximity to a US Navy base.
The dramatic moves by the US and its allies come just a week after President Donald Trump called his Russian counterpart to congratulate him on his re-election.