30 March 2018Hot off the Press
The US’ recent expulsion of Russian diplomats over Moscow’s alleged role in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England has been answered in kind, with the Russian Foreign Ministry ordering 60 US diplomats to leave the country by April 5.
The US consulate general in St Petersburg will also be closed.
Shortly before the announcement was officially made by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press briefing: “The measures would be reciprocal … they include expulsion of the equivalent number of diplomats and they include our decision to withdraw our agreement to allow the United States’ general consulate to operate in St Petersburg. As for the other countries, everything will also be symmetrical in terms of the number of people from their diplomatic missions who will be leaving Russia, and for now that’s pretty much it.”
The US State Department said on Thursday that Russia’s decision to expel the diplomats showed the Kremlin is not interested in diplomacy.
“It’s clear from the list provided to us that the Russian Federation is not interested in a dialogue on issues that matter to our two countries,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters, adding, “We reserve the right to respond.”
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury, England on March 4. It was later revealed by British authorities that the pair were exposed to a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s.
A little more than a week later, British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement to Parliament that it was “highly likely” the Russian Government was behind the attack.
Moscow vehemently denies its involvement in the attack on the Skripals and has repeatedly asked for samples of the substance to assist in the investigation.