Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that yesterday’s decision by western states to expel Russian diplomats was a mistake and a mirror response will be applied. ‘Of course, the mirror response will be applied in each such case,’ Peskov told journalists after the USA announced that it is to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close the Russian consulate in Seattle. The diplomats being expelled from the US include 48 embassy staff and 12 members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
According to a White House statement: ‘The United States 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.’ Several European countries – Germany, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ukraine – also announced a decision to expel Russian diplomats after accusing Russia of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in England, despite presenting no evidence.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk said that 14 EU member-states have announced a decision to kick out Russian diplomats after discussing the issue at last week’s summit. Most countries have ordered the Russian diplomats to leave within seven days.
On March 4, former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Britain and exchanged for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of a nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. London expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow.
Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a programme aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, 23 British diplomats were expelled, the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg was closed and the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia. At the same time, Moscow pointed out that further measures could be taken ‘should there be any more hostile actions against Russia.’