Russia Expels 60 Diplomats as tensions rise

Russia Expels 60 Diplomats as tensions rise

Russia will expel 60 US diplomats and close the US Consulate in St. Petersburg, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday, in retaliation for a similar move by Washington.

The 60 diplomats — 58 from the US mission in Moscow and two from Yekaterinburg — were declared “persona non grata” for activities “incompatible with diplomatic status,” the ministry said, ordering them to leave the country by April 5.

Russia has been on the defensive since the UK government openly blamed Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, on British soil on March 4.
More than 20 nations, including long-term allies like the United States, have backed Britain by together expelling more than 100 Russian diplomats. The US expelled 60 on Monday as part of the coordinated global response.

US Ambassador Jon Huntsman had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry to be told of the decision, Lavrov said. In response, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that Moscow “should not be acting like a victim.”

She rejected the Russian government’s suggestion that it is taking reciprocal action: “We don’t see this as a diplomatic tit for tat,” Nauert told reporters shortly after Moscow announced the move.

Russia had already been engaged in a tit-for-tat with Britain, with both countries expelling 23 diplomats each, and Russia closing some British institutions in the country.

This escalated when UK Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of using a military-grade Novichok nerve agent for the poisoning, in Salisbury on March 4.

Russia has firmly denied responsibility for the poisoning and President Vladimir Putin has dismissed accusations his country was involved as “delirium.”

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