European Union states expelling Russian diplomats over United Kingdom spy attack: Tusk

27 March, 2018, 03:46 | Author: Sheila Harris
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Many other nations have also chosen to expel Russian officials in solidarity with the U.K.'s response.

Several European Union countries joined the USA on March 26 in expelling dozens of Russian diplomats in a coordinated retaliation for the March 4 nerve-agent poisoning in Britain of a former Russian spy, which the British government blames on Russia and has accused the Kremlin of having approved.

In the Czech Republic, where Russian officials have claimed the poison used in Salisbury may have originated, Prime Minister Andrej Babis dismissed that allegation as "an utter lie". "The U.S. measures included Russia's United Nations mission, and this is an escalation", he said, noting that such large numbers had been expelled last at the height of Cold War tensions in the 1980s.

The Russian foreign ministry vows to retaliate against "a provocative gesture".

Senior Trump administration officials said all 60 Russians were spies working in the USA under diplomatic cover, including a dozen at Russia's mission to the United Nations.

"They hide behind the veneer of diplomatic immunity while actively engaging in intelligence operations that undermine the country in which they are hosted in a democracy they seek to minimize", an official said.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on March 4.

The UK government today hailed the largest collective expulsion of Russian "intelligence officers" in history after the U.S. and several European Union members announced a coordinated response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK earlier this month.

"We take these actions to demonstrate our unbreakable solidarity with the United Kingdom, and to impose serious consequences on Russian Federation for its continued violations of global norms", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement. "With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russian Federation that its actions have consequences", she said.

A second official said the measures were also intended as a response to a "steady drumbeat of destabilising and aggressive actions" by Moscow against the United States and its allies. "Everything now depends on Russia's will to escalate", said Vladimir Frolov, a former diplomat and foreign-affairs analyst in Moscow. In a statement, the ministry said called each diplomat a "persona non grata" and said the pair's activities were "not compliant to their diplomatic status".

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UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson praised the "extraordinary global response" by the Britain's allies.

"The unfriendly step of this group of countries will not pass without a trace, we will react to it", the statement said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Theresa May said: "We welcome today's actions by our allies, which clearly demonstrate that we all stand shoulder to shoulder in sending the strongest signal to Russian Federation that it can not continue to flout worldwide law". Government officials have yet to comment.

He said the European Council agreed with the United Kingdom "that it is highly likely the Russian Federation is responsible" for the poisoning.

They accused Moscow of launching a chemical attack against a Russian ex-spy in Britain earlier this month.

The move is also a stark contrast from President Donald Trump's actions last week.

Those sanctions came as the United States joined Britain, France and Germany in denouncing Russian Federation for its apparent role in the nerve-gas attack on British soil, calling it a "clear violation" of global law.

After that call, Trump defended these actions by arguing that "getting along with Russian Federation (and others) is a good thing", and that Putin's government could "help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race [sic]". "A very sad situation".

This is a holistic look at the Russian government's collection capabilities in the USA and the consulate in Seattle is just a particular location that has been designated. Something that should never, ever happen.

More than anything, the move should be recognized as an action to show solidarity with our western allies.


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