WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity with the United Kingdom over a nerve agent attack on a former spy earlier this month.
It was the toughest action that Trump has taken against Russia, and followed what one of the official called a “reckless attempt” by the Russian government on March 4 to attack former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a military-grade nerve agent.
The pair were found slumped on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury and remain critically ill in hospital.
Britain blames the Kremlin for the attack, and has been seeking support from NATO allies since expelling 23 Russian diplomats itself on March 14.
The Trump administration also closed Russia’s consulate in Seattle.
The U.S. government said it was acting “in conjunction” with NATO allies.
“The use of a military-grade nerve agent fitted with Russia’s “ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world,” a White House statement reads.
Statement on Expulsion of Russian intelligence officers. pic.twitter.com/4uCzMOMG3f
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 26, 2018
The E.U. recalled its ambassador to Moscow last week.
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.
Two Russian diplomats must leave Italy within a week in response to the nerve agent attack against a former Russian spy in southern England, the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.
“As a sign of solidarity with Great Britain and in coordination with NATO allies and European partners, the foreign ministry today communicated its decision to expel from Italian territory within a week two officials at the Russian embassy in Rome who have diplomatic credentials,” the statement said.
Germany too, will expel four Russian diplomats over Moscow’s suspected involvement in the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in England, Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday.
Besides USA, Canada, Italy and Germany other European countries that have expelled Russian diplomats include France, Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Ukraine.
Russia has consistently denied any involvement in the attack on the Skripals and demanded access to the UK’s investigation.
Moscow will expel at least 60 staff from US diplomatic missions in Russia in response to Washington’s decision to expel Russian diplomats, RIA news agency quoted a member of the upper house of the Russian parliament as saying.
Russia has expelled 23 British diplomats and closed the British consulate in St Petersburg and the British Council cultural body.