President Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. It comes in response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, which the UK has blamed on Russia.
The move follows major diplomatic pressure by the UK on its allies to follow their lead in expelling Russian diplomats. The Russian embassy in Washington had previously urged Trump not to heed the “fake news” on Skripal’s poisoning.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Moscow of being behind the poisoning of the former spy Skripal and his daughter in the town of Salisbury in early March.
Breaking: US to expel 48 Russian embassy workers in Washington, D.C. and 12 at the Russian mission to the U.N. U.S. says they were intel officers using diplo status as cover. pic.twitter.com/mRuwY8Tes6
— Patrick Tucker (@DefTechPat) March 26, 2018
Of the 60 diplomats expelled, 12 formed part of the Russian mission to the United Nations. In a statement, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the 12 Russians in question had “abused their privilege of residence” in the US and had “engaged in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
Haley said that the Russian diplomats had used the UN as “a safe haven for dangerous activities within our own borders.”
In the meantime, Fourteen members of the EU have decided to expel Russian diplomats over the Sergei Skripal case, European Council president Donald Tusk has confirmed. It comes despite zero evidence proving that Moscow was responsible.
Tusk also stated that further action could be taken.
Western countries have been pointing the finger at Russia over the poisoning of Skripal, a former double-agent, and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK on March 4. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson went so far as to suggest the attack was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia has denied playing in role in the poisoning, and has offered its full cooperation in the investigation. Moscow’s request for samples of the toxic agent used on Skripal and his daughter has been declined by Britain.