United States expels 60 Russian 'spies' over United Kingdom nerve attack

Cheryl Sanders
March 26, 2018

President Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle in response to a nerve agent attack earlier this month in Britain.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the move, part of globally coordinated retaliation against Moscow, was taken "in response to Russia's use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom".

"As a direct follow up to last week's European Council decision to react to Russia within a common framework, already today (Monday) 14 Member states have chose to expel Russian diplomats", Tusk said.

USA ambassador Nikki Haley, Mr Trump's envoy to the UN, said: "The United States and many of our friends are sending a clear message that we will not stand for Russia's misconduct".

On March 4, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia suffered a chemical attack in Salisbury in Britain and were in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

He added that the ongoing expulsion of Russian intelligence officers by the west is the largest ever worldwide dismissal of Russian spies. Additionally, she said that 18 countries have announced the plan to expel Russian intelligence officers. They say the Seattle consulate is a counter-intelligence concern because of its proximity to a U.S. Navy base.

Declining to speculate on the Russian response, he said the United States reserves the right to respond further to any Russian retaliation against "entirely justified" action by the US.

Mr Trump's order also included 12 Russians described by the USA officials as Russian intelligence officers from Russia's mission to the United Nations headquarters in NY and reflects U.S. concerns that Russian intelligence activities have been increasingly aggressive. "With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russian Federation that its actions have consequences".

On March 7, police say they have been poisoned by a highly toxic nerve agent. The officials weren't authorized to be identified by name and requested anonymity.

Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia announced expulsions of Russians on Monday (local time).

On the same day, the expelled Russian diplomats leave Britain.

Russia, which denies any role in the attack on the Skripals, said it would retaliate to the "provocative gesture".

This is a holistic look at the Russian government's collection capabilities in the U.S. and the consulate in Seattle is just a particular location that has been designated.

The move is one of the most significant actions Donald Trump's administration has taken to date to punish Moscow and Russian president Vladimir Putin, especially over its intelligence activities.

Russia said earlier on Monday it planned to retaliate against the United States if its diplomats were expelled, with a Kremlin spokesman saying "the principle of reciprocity will be enforced" before the United States announced its plans to expel Russians. Instead, the President praises Putin at every turn. "And as a sovereign European democracy, the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder with the EU and with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to face down these threats together", she said.

But a senior administration official said the United States' retaliatory action was "absolutely" Trump's decision, saying it was "something he was involved in from the beginning and that he personally made after several meetings with his team last week".

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