Thursday 19 July 2018

Spy poisoning case: 'Highly likely' Cabinet will take action against Russian diplomats in Ireland

  • 'Highly likely' Cabinet will take action against Russian diplomats
  • U.S. is kicking out 60 Russian diplomats and closing Russia's consulate in Seattle
  • Move made in response to the poisoning of an ex-spy in the UK
  • Now European Council president Donald Tusk says 14 member nations have expelled Russian diplomatic staff
  • Ireland is not one of the 14 members nations Tusk referenced
Close to death: Yulia Skripal and her father Sergei
Close to death: Yulia Skripal and her father Sergei
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Cabinet will discuss an ‘options paper’ being compiled by Garda and Defence Forces before any formal announcement is made over the potential expulsion of Russian diplomats from Ireland.

However, Independent.ie understands it is now “highly likely” that action will be taken.

Tanáiste Simon Coveney is considering the options. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Tanáiste Simon Coveney is considering the options. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A spokesperson for Tánaiste Simon Coveney confirmed he will bring a full assessment to Cabinet tomorrow.

This comes as European Council president Donald Tusk says 14 member nations have also expelled Russian diplomatic staff.

A spokesperson for Tánaiste Coveney said: “Donal Tusk’s tweet does not include Ireland. Assessments on our side are continuing.

“The Tánaiste will be responsible for taking any decision as Minister for Foreign Affairs but will brief Cabinet before any announcement.”

The United States is also kicking out 60 Russian diplomats and closing Russia's consulate in Seattle in response to the poisoning of an ex-spy in the UK.

Senior Trump administration officials said the expelled Russians include 12 spies who the US believes are working under diplomatic cover at Russia's mission to the United Nations.

They said the Seattle consulate is a counter-intelligence concern because of its proximity to a US Navy base.

Officials added that the actions are being taken to send a message about the "unacceptably high" number of Russian spies in the US and to respond to the attack in the UK.

The expelled Russians will have seven days to leave the US.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the actions would make the US safer by "reducing Russia's ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations" that threaten national security.

"With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences," Ms Sanders said.

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in a critical condition after they were poisoned with the highly lethal nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury on March 4.

The expulsions are one of the most significant actions US president Donald Trump has taken to date against Moscow and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Less than a week ago, Mr Trump congratulated Mr Putin by phone for his re-election, but did not raise the spy case, renewing questions about whether the US president is too soft on the Kremlin.

Poland, Germany and Lithuania have also announced they will expel Russian diplomats over the case.

Last week, EU chief Donald Tusk predicted that member states would introduce measures against Moscow over its suspected role in the poisoning.

The UK has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats, accusing them of being undeclared intelligence agents, which led Russia to expel the same number of British diplomats. The European Union has already recalled its ambassador to Russia.

The UK has accused Moscow of perpetrating the attack, while the US, France and Germany have agreed it is highly likely that was the case.

More to follow

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