Russia says it expelled 60 US diplomats in tit-for-tat measure

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Russia has expelled 60 US diplomats and closed the St Petersburg consulate in a tit-for-tat response to US action over a spy poisoning case in the UK.

Russia’s foreign minister said other countries that expelled Russians could expect a “symmetrical” response.

It comes amid a row over the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in southern England.

The White House said Russia’s move to expel its diplomats had been “not unanticipated”.

It marked “a further deterioration in the United States-Russia relationship”, it said in a statement.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury on 4 March, and the UK government has blamed Russia for the attack.

Russia has vehemently denied any role in the Salisbury attack. Mr Skripal remains in a critical but stable condition. His daughter’s condition is said to be improving.

More than 20 countries have expelled Russian envoys in solidarity with the UK. Among them is the US, which earlier this week ordered 60 diplomats to leave and closed the Russian consulate general in Seattle.

Russia declared 58 US diplomats in Moscow and two in the city of Yekaterinburg to be “personae non gratae”.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said US ambassador Jon Huntsman had been informed of the “retaliatory measures”.

“As for the other countries, everything will also be symmetrical in terms of the number of people from their diplomatic missions who will be leaving Russia,” he added.

Later, a US state department spokeswoman said America reserved the right to take further action.

The Russian foreign minister also accused Britain of “forcing everyone to follow an anti-Russian course”.

He said Moscow was responding to “absolutely unacceptable actions that are taken against us under very harsh pressure from the United States and Britain under the pretext of the so-called Skripal case”.

He reiterated Russian calls for consular access to Yulia Skripal – a Russian citizen.

Russia, he said, was also seeking a meeting with leaders of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to “establish the truth”. (Courtesy BBC)

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