President Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. It comes in response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, which the UK has blamed on Russia.
The move follows major diplomatic pressure by the UK on its allies to follow their lead in expelling Russian diplomats. The Russian embassy in Washington had previously urged Trump not to heed the “fake news” on Skripal’s poisoning.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Moscow of being behind the poisoning of the former spy Skripal and his daughter in the town of Salisbury in early March.
Of the 60 diplomats expelled, 12 formed part of the Russian mission to the United Nations. In a statement, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the 12 Russians in question had “abused their privilege of residence” in the US and had “engaged in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
Haley said that the Russian diplomats had used the UN as “a safe haven for dangerous activities within our own borders.”
Moscow has always denied playing any role in the attack, and offered to cooperate with the investigation into the incident. Britain has declined, however, to send samples of the chemical agent used on Skripal and his daughter to Moscow.