US expels 60 Russian diplomats, closes consulate in Seattle

More countries to take similar action; Russia promises to take reciprocal action against Washington

FE Online Desk | Published: March 26, 2018 19:48:18 | Updated: March 27, 2018 12:49:59

Donald Trump walking across the South Lawn of the White House on Sunday. -NPR Photo

US President Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats from the United States.

The White House also announced on Monday that Trump ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in the Seattle, Washington State’s largest city.

The officials and their families have got seven days to leave the US, reports American privately and publicly funded media body National Public Radio.

The move follows allegations of poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Among the 60 expelled officers, 48 are members of the Russian embassy and 12 are officers from Russia's mission to the United Nations in New York.

The consulate in Seattle is being shuttered due to its proximity to a US submarine base and Boeing's operations there, a senior administration official said.

Russia has been given the deadline of April 2 for its closure.

"The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies, and partners around the world in response with 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," the official said.

"Today's actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia's ability to spy on Americans, and to conduct covert operations that threaten America's national security," the official continued.

"With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences," the official said.

The expulsions come amid internal conflict at the White House and State Department on how to handle Russia.

Last week, Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election as president, and did not bring up Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential campaign nor Russia's hacking of the US power grid.

But Trump is also bringing in John Bolton as his national security adviser, a Russia hawk. The US has also instituted more sanctions against Russia.

Meanwhile, The Guardian said, EU members Germany, France and Poland are each to expel four Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack in the UK.

Lithuania and the Czech Republic said they would expel three with Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands expelling two each.

Ukraine, which is not an EU member, is to expel 13 Russian diplomats and Canada four.

The UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning, and Russia responded by ejecting the same number of British diplomats.

Russia promised it would take reciprocal action against Washington. It said the UK had not presented a single fact proving that Moscow was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

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