US expelled 60 Russian diplomats, ordered closure of consulate in Seattle

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Vastavam web: In a decision reminiscent of the Cold War era, the US today expelled 60 Russian diplomats, describing them as “intelligence officers” and ordered closure of the country’s consulate in Seattle over the use of nerve agent allegedly by Moscow against a former Russian spy in the UK.A dozen of these expelled diplomats are based at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN.All Russian diplomats, connected to the country’s intelligence agencies, and their families have been given seven days’ time to leave the country.

The White House said this is in retaliation to the use of nerve agent against former spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom, which blames Russia for the attack.Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, both remain critically ill in hospital in Britain.”Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security. With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences,” she said.

She said the US stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behaviour.There are 100 Russian intelligence officials based in the US. This is the first step, a senior Trump administration official told reporters during a conference call.”After a review, we have determined that the 12 intelligence operatives engaged in espionage activities that are adverse to? our national security. Our actions are consistent with the United Nations Headquarters Agreement,” she said.

Haley said Trump’s decision shows that Russia’s actions have consequences.”Beyond Russia’s destabilising behaviour across the world, such as its participation in the atrocities in Syria and its illegal actions in Ukraine, it has now used a chemical weapon within the borders of one of our closest allies,” she said.”This attack on our Ally the United Kingdom put countless innocent lives at risk and resulted in serious injury to three people, including a police officer,” the State Department Spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said.

In response to this outrageous violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and breach of international law, today the US will expel 48 Russian officials serving at Russia’s bilateral mission to the United States, she said.”We will also require the Russian government to close its Consulate General in Seattle by April 2, 2018. We take these actions to demonstrate our unbreakable solidarity with the UK, and to impose serious consequences on Russia for its continued violations of international norms,” Nauert said.

The US move was followed by 14 European Union member states who expelled a number of Russian diplomats in a coordinated response.Germany, France and Poland have said they will each expel four Russia diplomats, the Czech Republic and Lithuania three, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands two, and Latvia one.Colonel Skripal was convicted of treason in 2006 and jailed for 13 years for selling secrets to MI6, which had recruited him in the 1990s. The senior intelligence officer with Russian military intelligence GRU, was pardoned in a spy swap in 2010 and settled in Salisbury, Wiltshire.