Moscow Trolls Twitter for Response After Dozens of Diplomats Expelled by U.S., Europe

Russian senator says 60 American staff will be expelled; other countries have announced measures against Russian diplomats over an assassination attempt of a former spy in Britain

The Associated Press
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Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir PutinCredit: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV
The Associated Press

Russian officials have blasted as provocative the decision to expel scores of its diplomats by the U.S. and over a dozen EU nations in retaliation for the death of a former Russia spy in the U.K. in a mysterious poisoning that many say points to Moscow.

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A Russian senator has announced that some 60 American staff who are in the U.S. mission to Russia will be expelled in retaliation to the shutting down of the country’s consulate in Seattle and the deportation of 60 Russian diplomats from the United States. The Russian Embassy in the United States tweeted a poll quickly after the U.S. announcement asking which U.S. consulate they should close in retaliation. "US administration [] ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle @GK_Seattle [] . What US Consulate General would you close in @Russia, if it was up to you to decide," read the mocking tweet. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia’ counter-measures will be proportional and will punish all states that follow the American lead and expel Russian diplomats.

Peskov added that President Vladimir Putin would make the final decision about how Russia responds to the expulsions, speaking to reporters in Moscow.

Russia's ambassador to the U.S. says Washington's decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats “is destroying what is left of Russia-U.S. ties.”

Anatoly Antonov denounced the U.S. move as ill-considered and provocative and said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Moscow will make an "adequate" response.

The American government decided to take harsh measures against Russia following Russia's alleged use of a chemical weapon in an assassination attempt on a former Russian spy in Britain.

Although Russia has adamantly denied any involvement in the assassination attempt, Britain has swiftly expelled 23 Russian diplomats and called for its allies to follow suit. Britain and the United States are historical allies and enjoy a so-called “special relationship” in virtue of common history, language.

Alongside the United States, other countries have announced measures against Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain, including Germany, Italy, France, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, as well as Russia’s rival Ukraine.

Overall, a total of fourteen European nations have announced coordinated counter-measures so far, said President of the European Council Donald Tusk adding that “Additional measures, including further sanctions within the common EU framework, cannot be excluded in the coming days and weeks".

“Today’s extraordinary international response by our allies stands in history as the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever & will help defend our shared security. Russia cannot break international rules with impunity,” wrote British foreign minister Boris Johnson on Twitter.

Also Canada said on Monday it was expelling four Russian diplomats in response to a "despicable, heinous and reckless" nerve agent attack earlier this month in Britain.

"The four have been identified as intelligence officers or individuals who have used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada's security or interfere in our democracy," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a bench in the British city of Salisbury on March 4 and remain hospitalized in critical condition.

The Russian Foreign Ministry reaffirms in a statement released on Monday that the British accusations that Russia is involved in the case are “unfounded.” It adds that the allies of Britain are "blindly following the principle of Euro-Atlantic solidarity in violation of common sense, norms of civilized international dialogue and international law."