Trump expels 60 Russians, closes Seattle consulate after UK chemical attack

Tuesday, 27 Mar, 2018

The United States and more than a dozen European nations have kicked out Russian diplomats, with the Russian consulate in Seattle ordered closed, as the West punished Moscow's alleged role in the poisoning of an ex-spy in the UK.

On the same day, European Council President Donald Tusk announced that a total of 14 member states of the European Union have also made a decision to expel Russian diplomats.

In Washington, Russia's ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, was summoned early on Friday (Saturday NZT) to the State Department and told that the 60 diplomats would have one week to leave the country, a State Department official said. Ukraine will expel 13 diplomats and Canada four.

Separately Russia's European Union neighbors, including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland summoned Russian ambassadors to their foreign ministries on Monday, while Polish authorities reportedly detained an alleged Russian spy.

- SPAIN, NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, ITALY, ALBANIA: Two Russian diplomats expelled from each country. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven later said they will also expel a Russian diplomat.

In solidarity with Britain, which expelled 23 Russian diplomats, Germany has expelled four and Poland, Latvia and Lithuania summoned Russian ambassadors in anticipation of additional expulsions. Albania followed suit to expel two Russian diplomats.

Ultimately, however, the US found Moscow's response wasn't credible.

"Trump announced the expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States along with the closure of its Consulate in Seattle, Washington", he said.

The move came after British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed fellow European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels to urge them to support Britain's assessment that Russian Federation was to blame. With these expulsions, Russia's intelligence collection capability in the U.S. will be significantly minimised, the official said. By engaging in what appears to be an attempted assassination on foreign soil, Russian Federation breached worldwide norms that keep world order in check.

Russian Federation has vowed to retaliate to the new "provocative gesture" of each country accordingly.

"There is no objective and comprehensive data confirming Russian involvement in the Sergey and Yulia Skripal case", it added.

Moscow vowed that this "unfriendly step by this group of countries will not pass without trace and we will respond to it". He also says he "wouldn't be surprised if they chose to close maybe [the consulate] in Vladivostok", a city in Russia's far east - a sort of coastal diplomatic tit for tat.

During that same conversation with the Russian leader, the president declined to mention the fact that a former Russian spy and his daughter - and at least 38 British bystanders - had recently been poisoned by a nerve agent that's exclusively produced by the Russian government.

Diplomats are being kicked out of at least 21 countries - 16 European Union states, the United States, Canada, Ukraine, Norway and Albania - in a coordinated effort that represents a significant diplomatic victory for the UK, which blames Russian Federation for poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

The incident has drawn comparisons to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko after drinking radioactive tea.

"Together we have sent a message that we Russia's continued attempts to flout global law and undermine our values".

European Union leaders agreed last week it was highly likely Russian Federation was behind the nerve-agent poisoning.

"But their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events", May said.

Moscow already vowed to expel "no less than 60" USA diplomats.