Tuesday, 25 June, 2019

From Russian Spy Poisoning To Diplomatic Escalation

Ireland To Decide Tomorrow Whether To Expel Russian Diplomats US expels 60 Russians, closes consulate
Pablo Mccormick | 27 March, 2018, 03:44

US President Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle over a nerve agent attack earlier this month in Britain, senior US officials say.

Russian Federation said the move went against the interests of identifying those guilty for the attack in the English city of Salisbury on ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who are both unconscious in hospital after being poisoned by a nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union.

Warning of an "unacceptably high" number of Russian spies in the United States, the Trump administration said 60 diplomats would be expelled - all understood to be Russian intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover.

The officials being expelled from the USA include 48 in the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 at the Russian mission at the United Nations, who the U.S. say are spies engaged in "aggressive collection here in the US".

The US has ordered 60 envoys to leave, Canada four, the Ukraine 13 and the European Union countries a total of 30.

"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 chose to expel Russian diplomats", said President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who was in Bulgaria's Varna for an EU-Turkey Summit.

EU Member States have on Monday gradually announced the details of a coordinated response to Moscow's attack on ex-spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

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The pretext for the expulsion was the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence Colonel Sergei Skripal convicted in Russia of spying for the United Kingdom and his daughter Yulia.

Skripal and his daughter remain in hospital care and are feared to never wake-up after the were found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury.

Declining to speculate on the Russian response, he said the U.S. reserves the right to respond further to any Russian retaliation against "entirely justified" action by the US.

The US' actions came as more than a dozen nations, including those in Russia's neighbourhood, announced similar steps to reduce Russia's diplomatic presence in their countries or other actions to punish Moscow.

The Russians and their families have seven days to leave the United States, according to officials.

They were working at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa and the consulate-general in Montreal.

It was not immediately clear how many Russians are assigned to its various U.S. missions, but in 2016 Putin ordered the United States to reduce its Moscow personnel to 455 to achieve parity.

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And it warned that there would be a tit-for-tat response to those countries "pandering to British authorities" without, Moscow claims, fully understanding what had happened. But it has also put new twists on diplomatic punishments: by cutting the total number of USA staff in Russia by 755 a year ago rather than ejecting specific diplomats; and by closing the British Council, a government cultural initiative, after Theresa May ejected 23 Russian diplomats this month.

Ukraine, which seeks closer ties with the European Union, announced the expulsion of 13 Russian officials.

Germany was one of the first to make the announcement as Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin had "expelled four Russian diplomats".

"The President's decision today shows that Russia's actions have consequences".

- SPAIN, NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, ITALY, ALBANIA: Two Russian diplomats expelled from each country. Trump added: "As soon as we get the facts straight if we agree with them, we will condemn Russian Federation or whoever it may be".

Trump was criticised for being soft on Russian Federation, which, in turn, was accused of interfering in USA elections to help bring him to power in 2017.

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