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Diplomats expulsion: Russia vows ‘harsh response’ to US, EU

IANS | Moscow |

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Tuesday said that Moscow will respond “harshly” to the decision by Washington and a number of Western countries to expel Russian diplomats over an alleged nerve agent attack on a former spy living in the UK.

She said that “the US had once again directed false accusations at Russia”, and that it “threatens and attempts to turn everything upside down”, Sputnik news agency reported.

“We are open to constructive work, we will continue it, but without a tough response to yesterday’s decision by the US authorities against our diplomatic missions, the current situation will not persist,” Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov also said that Russia was not abandoning the strategic stability talks with Washington.

“We need this dialogue… We are not giving up this dialogue, we will hold it.

The US on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats, joining governments across Europe in punishing the Kremlin for the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia that they blamed on Moscow.

Skripal and Yulia suffered the chemical attack in Salisbury on March 4 and were in a serious but stable condition in hospital. British officials identified the chemical as Novichok, a nerve agent developed by Russia during the Cold War.

The US called the 60 Russian officials “spies”, including a dozen based at the UN, and told Moscow to shut down its consulate in Seattle, which would end Russian diplomatic representation on the West Coast.

The EU members Germany, France and Poland are each to expel four Russian diplomats with intelligence agency backgrounds. Lithuania and the Czech Republic said they would expel three, and Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands two each, according to the Guardian.

Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Sweden and Romania each expelled one Russian. Iceland announced it would not be sending officials to the World Cup in Russia.

Ukraine, which is not an EU member, is to expel 13 Russian diplomats, while Albania, an EU candidate member, ordered the departure of two Russians from the embassy in Tirana. Macedonia, another EU candidate, expelled one Russian official.

Canada announced it was expelling four diplomatic staff serving in Ottawa and Montreal who the government said were spies.

Australia confirmed that it too would expel two Russian diplomats who were in the country as undeclared intelligence officers, giving them seven days to leave.

Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats last week and Russia ordered retaliatory expulsions.

Meanwhile, Moscow’s Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia called Washington’s decision a “very unfortunate and very unfriendly move”.