US, EU Expel Russian Diplomats over Skripal Case
The United States said Monday it would expel 60 Russian diplomats, joining more than a dozen European nations in punishing the Kremlin for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.
Relatively, British Prime Minister Theresa May, welcoming the show of solidarity, said 18 countries had announced plans to expel Russian officials. This included 16 European Union countries.
In total, Monday's announcements affected more than 100 Russian diplomats - the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.
May said the coordinated measures sent the "strongest signal to Russia that it cannot continue to flout international law." Britain had evidence Russia had investigated ways of distributing nerve agents for assassinations, May told Parliament.
Russia's Foreign Ministry called the actions a "provocative gesture."
A Kremlin spokesman said the West's response was a "mistake" and that Russian President Vladimir Putin would make a final decision about Russia's response.
Moscow, for its part, denied being behind the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern English city of Salisbury.
Skripal, 66, and Yulia Skripal, 33, were found unconscious on a public bench in a shopping center on March 4 and remain critically ill in hospital.
"We assess that more than 130 people in Salisbury could have been potentially exposed to this nerve agent," May said.
The staff expelled by the United States included 12 intelligence officers from Russia's mission to the United Nations headquarters in New York for activities the US said were outside their official capacity and an abuse of their privileges of residence.
In this respect, Russian UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called it "a very unfortunate, very unfriendly move," adding that they had to leave by April 2.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump also ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle because of its proximity to a US submarine base and plane-maker and defense contractor Boeing Co., one of the senior administration officials said.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team