US expels 60 Russian diplomats over UK spy poisoning case
The Trump administration said the 60 included 12 spies who the US believes are working under diplomatic cover at Russia’s mission to the United Nations.
The United States is 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.
Statement on Expulsion of Russian intelligence officers. pic.twitter.com/4uCzMOMG3f— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 26, 2018
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.