Tuesday 22 October, 2019

Spy row: Russia expels more than 150 diplomats

(Image: AP: Police investigate the 4 March attack in Salisbury, UK)

(Image: AP: Police investigate the 4 March attack in Salisbury, UK)

Russia announced the expulsion of more than 150 diplomats, including 60 Americans, on Thursday and said it was closing a US consulate in retaliation for the wave of Western expulsions of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter in Britain, a tit-for-tat response that intensified the Kremlin's rupture with the United States and Europe.

The Russian move came as a hospital treating Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, said the woman was improving rapidly and was out of critical condition, though her father remained in critical condition.

The Skripals were found unconscious and critically ill in the English city of Salisbury on 4 March. British authorities blamed Russia for poisoning them with a military-grade nerve agent, accusations Russia has vehemently denied.

Two dozen countries, including the US, many EU nations and NATO have ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain - a massive action unseen even at the height of the Cold War.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at news conference on Thursday that Moscow will expel the same number of diplomats from each of those countries in retaliation. Lavrov said Moscow will also retaliate for the US decision to shut the Russian consulate in Seattle by closing the US consulate in St. Petersburg.

The Foreign Ministry said the US diplomats, including 58 from the US Embassy in Moscow and two from the US consulate in Yekaterinburg, must leave Russia by 5 April. It added that the US must leave the consulate in St Petersburg no later than Saturday.

The ministry warned that if the US takes further "hostile actions" against Russian missions, Russia will respond in kind.

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