Tuesday 16 July 2019

US kicks out 60 Russian diplomats over spy poisoning

President Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP
President Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP

Ben Riley-Smith

Donald Trump has expelled 60 Russian diplomats from America as punishment for the Salisbury poisoning and to protect the country from spying.

Donald Tusk, president of the EU council, has announced that 14 member states have decided to expel Russian diplomats.

EU leaders agreed last week it was highly likely Russia was behind the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in the English town.

Some 48 diplomats at the Russian embassy in the US have been asked to leave, as well as 12 Russians who work at the United Nations. The Russian consulate in Seattle will also be closed.

Senior US administration officials said the Russians being expelled were intelligence officers who are being "cloaked" by their diplomatic status.

The US officials accused Russia of a "reckless attempt" to murder British citizens on British soil and said the attack would not go unpunished.

US officials said that the lives of "countless" innocent people including children had been put at risk by the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

They also blamed the Kremlin directly for the attack.

A senior US administration official said: "This was a reckless attempt by the government to murder a British citizen and his daughter on British soil with a military-grade nerve agent. It cannot go unanswered.

"The Salisbury attack was only the latest in a long series of Russian efforts to undermine international peace and stability.

"The Russian government has shown malicious contempt for the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide. It has repeatedly sought to subvert and discredit Western institutions. These efforts are ongoing.

"Today we stand in solidarity with America's closest ally, the United Kingdom. To the Russian government, we say: 'When you attack our friends, you will face serious consequences."

The diplomats and their families have seven days to leave the US. Moscow's ambassador to Washington warned the US was "destroying what little is left of relations with Russia".

A number of EU member states, including Germany and Poland, announced similar moves yesterday morning.

The German foreign ministry confirmed Berlin has expelled four Russian diplomats over the Salisbury attack while Poland said it was also expelling four of the state's diplomats.

Russian diplomatic staff based in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Estonia have also been asked to leave.

US officials said the 60 Russians were among more than 100 spies operating in America. They said they would make decisions in the future about what to do with those remaining.

Mr Trump has not discussed the move with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

US officials did not rule out the possibility of new economic sanctions on Russia as punishment for Salisbury, saying instead when asked that there was nothing to announce.

The action came after more than a fortnight of mixed messages over America's willingness to take a tough line on Russia for the Salisbury poisoning.

The White House declined to point the finger at Russia explicitly the day British Prime Minister Theresa May linked the Kremlin with the attack during an address in the House of Commons.

Mr Trump also failed to mention that attack during a phone call with Mr Putin last week and at times has not matched critical rhetoric of cabinet colleagues and officials.

© Daily Telegraph London


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