United States ordered expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats describing them as “intelligence officers” and at the same time ordered closure of the country’s consulate in Seattle. In a similar development, fourteen countries of the European Union too announced on Tuesday that they are to expel a total of 30 Russian diplomats. Australia also announced that it would expel two Russian diplomats over the UK spy attack.
In US a dozen of these expelled diplomats are based at Russia's Permanent Mission to the UN. There are 100 Russian intelligence officials based in the US, this is the first step , a senior Trump administration official told reporters during a conference call. The US reserves the right to expel more, the official added.
In a statement of White House released by the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders it was stated that:
"Today President Donald J. Trump ordered expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing. The US takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilising activities around the world. Today’s actions male the US safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security. With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences. The United States stand ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behaviour."
Statement on Expulsion of Russian intelligence officers. pic.twitter.com/4uCzMOMG3f
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 26, 2018
All Russian diplomats, connected to the country's intelligence agencies, and their families have been given seven days' time to leave the country.
Trump's move to expel 60 Russian officials is reportedly the largest ever mass expulsion of Russian officials from the United States.
The White House said the expulsion is in retaliation to the use of nerve agent against former spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom, which blames Russia for the attack.
Moscow has denied these allegations. The United Kingdom has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that the United States has begun the process of expelling 12 intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission to the United Nations who have abused their privilege of residence in the United States, PTI reported.
She cited Russia's participation in Syria and its illegal actions in Ukraine, to highlight its destabilising behaviour across the world. Russia has now used a chemical weapon within the borders of UK, one of the closest allies of US.
PTI quoted Heather Nauert, State Department Spokesperson, saying: "In response to this outrageous violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and breach of international law, today the US will expel 48 Russian officials serving at Russia's bilateral mission to the United States."
"We will also require the Russian government to close its Consulate General in Seattle by April 2, 2018. We take these actions to demonstrate our unbreakable solidarity with the UK, and to impose serious consequences on Russia for its continued violations of international norms," Nauert said.
This stern action against Russia, gives flashback of the cold war era, when the two super-powers, USSR and US often targeted each other with such expulsions in order to expand their sphere of influence.
The US move was followed by 14 European Union member states that expelled 30 Russian diplomats. Germany, France and Poland led the way in Europe with four expulsions each.
The 28 European Union states said in a statement that they agreed it was highly likely Russia was responsible for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4, and ordered the recall of the bloc's ambassador to Moscow.
Colonel Skripal was convicted of treason in 2006 and jailed for 13 years for selling secrets to MI6, which had recruited him in the 1990s. The senior intelligence officer with Russian military intelligence GRU, was pardoned in a spy swap in 2010 and settled in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Both Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, both remain critically ill in hospital in Britain.
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