US, Europe Order Russian Expulsions over British Attack
The United States has expelled 60 Russian diplomats to answer the poisoning of a Russian spy and his daughter in Britain this month.
The U.S. action was announced Monday. Numerous European nations also ordered expulsions.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the order. She said in a statement that, in taking the actions, "the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences."
Officials from the U.S., Britain and other nations have accused the Russian government of ordering the attack.
On March 4, 66-year-old former Russian military intelligence official Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious at a shopping center in Salisbury. The two were taken to the hospital where they remain in serious condition.
Sergei Skripal lived in Britain and is a British citizen. His daughter was visiting from Moscow.
Britain said it found evidence the Skripals were poisoned with a nerve gas Russia developed in the 1980s.
Earlier this month, Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats after British Prime Minister Theresa May called the attack an unlawful use of force by Russia. Russia has denied involvement in the attack.
U.S. officials said the 60 Russians expelled were "intelligence officers" working in America under diplomatic cover. Several reportedly worked for Russia's United Nations offices.
The U.S. also ordered the closure of Russia's diplomatic operation in Seattle, Washington. Sanders said that action was taken because the operation is near a U.S. Navy submarine base and the U.S. aerospace company Boeing.
"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," Sanders said.
European Council President Donald Tusk said at least 14 European Union nations were expelling Russian diplomats. An EU official told the Associated Press more than 30 Russians were ordered expelled from EU nations.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko also ordered expulsions of 13 Russians. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said they would expel diplomats as well. And Canada said it was expelling four Russians and denying permission to three others seeking to enter the country.
Almost all the countries said publicly the expelled Russian diplomats were believed to be operating as spies.
The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said in a statement the action by the U.S. and many of its allies sends "a clear message that we will not stand for Russia's misconduct."
Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, condemned the U.S. move. In comments carried Monday by Russian news agencies, Antonov said Russia would decide on an "adequate" response for the U.S. action. He added that the U.S. is "ruining what is left of Russian-U.S. ties."
In Moscow, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said officials were considering how to react to nations ordering the expulsions.