US President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in the British city of Salisbury.
US President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in the British city of Salisbury. A dozen of these expelled diplomats are based at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN. “Today President Donald J. Trump ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing,” the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, said. All Russian diplomats, connected to the country’s intelligence agencies, and their families have been given seven days’ time to leave the country.
The order includes 12 Russian intelligence officers from Russia’s mission to the United Nations headquarters in New York and reflects concerns that Russian intelligence activities have been increasingly aggressive, senior U.S. administration officials told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Fourteen EU states also expelled Russian diplomats in a coordinated response, EU President Donald Tusk said today. “As a direct follow-up to last week’s European Council decision to react to Russia within a common framework, already today 14 member states have decided to expel Russian diplomats,” Tusk told a news conference in Varna, Bulgaria.
As a part of the move, Ukraine will expel 13 Russian diplomats, President Petro Poroshenko announced today. “In response to a cynical chemical attack in Salisbury, Ukraine, in the spirit of solidarity with our British partners and transatlantic allies and in coordination with EU countries, decided to expel 13 Russian diplomats from the few that remain (in Kiev),” Poroshenko posted on his Facebook page.
France also has told four Russian diplomats to leave the country within one week, the foreign ministry said today. “In solidarity with our British partners, we have notified today the Russian authorities of our decision to expel from French territory four Russian employees with diplomatic status,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.
The foreign ministers of Lithuania and Poland today said they would expel Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain. “We handed a note to the ambassador that three Russian embassy officials are declared persona non grata for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP. Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz, for his part, told reporters: “The four Russian diplomats have until midnight on April 3 to leave Poland.”
The strong move comes after the UK alleged that on March 4, Russia used a military-grade nerve agent to attempt to murder a British citizen and his daughter in Salisbury. Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, both remain critically ill in hospital in Britain. Moscow has denied these allegations. The United Kingdom has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats. There are 100 Russian intelligence officials based in the US. This is the first step, a senior Trump administration official told reporters during a conference call and the US reserves the right to expel more.
Colonel Skripal was convicted of treason in 2006 and jailed for 13 years for selling secrets to MI6, which had recruited him in the 1990s. The senior intelligence officer with Russian military intelligence GRU, was pardoned in a spy swap in 2010 and settled in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The US move revives memories of the Cold War (from 1950s to early 1990s) when the two super powers – the United States and the Soviet Union – were engaged in a competition for increasing their sphere of influence and often targeted each other with such expulsions.