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Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were discovered unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury, in southern England [Rex Features]
Trump orders expulsion of dozens of Russian officials as EU announces 14 member states will ask diplomats to leave.
US President Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians as the diplomatic dispute between Russia and the UK intensifies over a spy poisoning case.
The United States – backing up its closest ally – also said on Monday it was closing the Russian consulate in Seattle in response to the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Both are critically ill in a UK hospital after being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in the southern English city of Salsibury last month.
“The United States takes this action – in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world – in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilising activities around the world,” the White House said in a statement.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the US and its allies want to send a message to Russia that “actions have consequences”.
Many of the Russians expelled were intelligence officials.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, responded by saying the US decision was “wrongful”, RIA news agency reported.
“What the United States of America do today is they are destroying the little that is left from the Russian-American relations,” he said.
Commenting on possible Russian retaliation, Antonov said Moscow’s response would be commensurate.
The Russian embassy in the United States asked Twitter followers to vote what US consulates they would close in Russia, if they could decide. Besides the embassy in Moscow, the United States has three consulate generals in the country.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the coordinated move was “the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever”.
Johnson called it an “extraordinary international response by our allies” and showed that “Russia cannot break international rules with impunity”.
Today’s extraordinary international response by our allies stands in history as the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever & will help defend our shared security. Russia cannot break international rules with impunity
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 26, 2018
EU-Canada pile on
Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk said 14 EU member countries were also expelling Russian diplomats.
Britain accuses Moscow of using the nerve agent “Novichok” in the Salsibury attack. Last week, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and their families.
Moscow denies the nerve agent claims and retaliated by forcing the same number of British embassy staff to leave Russia.
Canada said on Monday it was expelling four Russian diplomats and denying accreditation for three more in response to a “despicable, heinous and reckless” nerve agent attack earlier this month in Britain.
“The four have been identified as intelligence officers or individuals who have used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in our democracy,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia, 33, were discovered unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury after the attack and both are fighting for their lives.
Skripal was a colonel in Russian military intelligence when, in 1995, he sold information to the UK. He left the Russian service in 2000, but was arrested and sentenced in 2006 to 13 years in prison for espionage.
In 2010, Skripal was pardoned and allowed to move to London after the British and Russian governments exchanged captured spies.Source: Al Jazeera