Dhaka, 27 Mar, Abnews: More than 100 Russian diplomats have been hit by a wave of expulsions across Europe and North America in response to the poisoning of a former spy in Salisbury.
The Trump administration was among 24 Western governments to order the removal of staff on Monday, with 60 Russian diplomats asked to leave the US alongside the closure of Russia’s consulate in Seattle.
Sixteen EU countries including Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland also expelled envoys, alongside Canada, Ukraine, Norway and Albania.
In the sternest move yet against Russia since he became President, Donald Trump’s White House said it was working with Nato allies to punish Russia for its suspected poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and the “unacceptably high” number of Russian spies in the US.
The European Council president Donald Tusk meanwhile said the bloc’s expulsions were a “direct follow-up to last week’s European Council decision” in which it “condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the recent attack in Salisbury”.
The White House said in a statement: “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.
“Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security. With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences.”
It added: “The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behaviour.”
Mr Trump has been criticised over a telephone call with Vladimir Putin, during which he ignored advice from his officials and congratulated the Russian leader on his recent election victory.
He also failed to raise Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election and the Salisbury poisoning.
Theresa May has previously said that it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for the poisoning of Mr Skripal and his daughter. The couple remain in a critical condition in hospital. The Prime Minister yesterday told the Commons that more than 130 people could have been exposed to the novichok nerve agent and that 50 people were assessed in hospital. – Agencies