On March 29, Russia expelled 60 U.S. diplomats. The U.S. ambassador was also ordered to shut the consulate in St Petersburg.
“We will retaliate in kind, but there will be more. Virtually right now, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman is at the Ministry and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov is explaining to him the substance of our retaliatory measures with regard to the United States. These include the expulsion of the same number of US diplomats and our decision to withdraw our consent to the operation of the US Consulate General in St Petersburg. As for the number of diplomatic mission staff from the other countries who will be leaving Russia, it is also a tit-for-tat procedure,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists on Thursday.
According to the U.S. side, the expulsion of their diplomats has no legal basis.
“I want to remind you that there is no justification for the Russian response. Our actions were motivated purely by the attack on the United Kingdom, the attack on a British citizen and his daughter. Remember, this is a first time that a weapons-grade nerve agent, Novichok, has been used outside of war on allied soil. We have not taken these steps lightly; we’ve taken these steps in concert with our allies across the world. Twenty-eight countries now join the United States backing our allies in the decision to have kicked out 153 Russian spies from the various countries,” Heather Nauert, Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said.
In total, 152 Russian diplomatshave been withdrawn from different countries.
The scandal broke after the poisoning of a former double agent in the territory of Europe. On March 4, Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yuliya, 33, were found unconscious at a shopping mall in the English town of Salisbury. The two were taken to hospital in critical condition. The were reportedly poisoned following exposure to an unknown substance. Later, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Skripal and his daughter had been poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.
belsat.eu Photo: REUTERS / Mukhtar Kholdorbekov / FORUM