Russia has expelled 60 U.S. envoys and also ordered the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg, within 48 hours, the U.S. Department of State has announced.
Russia’s actions were in retaliation for the expulsion of 60 Russian envoys from the U.S. during the week and the closure of Russian Consulate General in Seattle.
The U.S. had expelled the Russian envoys in solidarity with its most important ally, the UK, over Russia’s alleged use of a military-grade nerve agent to attempt to murder a British citizen, Yulia Scripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
The spokesperson for the Department, Heather Nauert, said she spoke with U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, and quoted him as explaining Russia’s actions against the U.S.
Ms Nauert said: “This evening, Ambassador Jon Huntsman was convoked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
“The Russian Federation dubbed 60 of our staff persona non grata, and they now must depart within seven days.
“They also ordered the closure of our consulate in St. Petersburg within 48 hours.
“It’s clear from the list provided to us that the Russian Federation is not interested in a dialogue on issues that matter to our two countries.”
Ms Nauert, however, said the U.S. regretted Russia’s actions, saying there was no justification whatsoever.
She declared: “Russia is responsible for that horrific attack on the British citizen and his daughter. Once again, they have broken the Chemical Weapons Convention. It was a banned substance that they have used – Novichok”.
“I want to remind you that there is no justification for the Russian response. Our actions were motivated purely by the attack on the United Kingdom, the attack on a British citizen and his daughter.
“Remember, this is a first time that a weapons-grade nerve agent, Novichok, has been used outside of war on allied soil.
“We have not taken these steps lightly; we’ve taken these steps in concert with our allies across the world,” she said.
According to her, 28 countries now joined the U.S. to back its allies in the decision to kick out 153 Russian spies from the various countries, with Georgia being the latest country that has joined.
“We are now reviewing the Russian Government’s note informing us of their response. It appears that Russia has chosen to take the regrettable, unwarranted action to respond to our entirely justified action that I just covered.
“As I understand it, Russia plans to take the same unjustified actions against 28 other countries, countries that stood in solidarity with the UK. Russia is further isolating itself following the brazen chemical attack.
“We are still reviewing the details of the Russian action, but let me say, again, that we reserve the right to further any Russian retaliation against the United States.
“So we are reading this. We are reviewing it, and we’ll respond accordingly,” Nauert said.