Russia to expel 60 US diplomats, close American consulate in St. Petersburg
iStock/Thinkstock(ST. PETERSBURG, Russia) — Russia has announced that it will expel 60 U.S. diplomats and close the American consulate in St. Petersburg in retaliation for the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats earlier this week by the United States and other countries over the poisoning of a former spy in Britain.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said at a televised press conference that the U.S. ambassador to Moscow was summoned to be told about the measures.
”Literally in these minutes, the ambassador of the United States, John Huntsman, has been invited to our ministry, where my deputy Sergei Ryabkov, will convey to him the contents of these response measures in relation to the U.S.,” Lavrov said.
Russia’s foreign ministry in a statement on its website said that it had informed Huntsman that 58 staff from the U.S. embassy in Moscow and two from its consulate in Moscow had been declared “persona non grata” and must leave Russia before April 5. The ministry said that the U.S. must move out of the St. Petersburg consulate by March 31.
Lavrov also promised that Russia would expel embassy staff from other countries that threw out Russian diplomats over the alleged poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England, on March 4.
This week the U.S. kicked out 60 Russia diplomatic staff in a coordinated move with over two dozen other countries, mostly from the European Union and NATO, designed to express solidarity with the U.K. and outrage at the poisoning.
The U.K. and others have said Russia held responsibility the attack, which they say used a military grade nerve agent produced by Russia. But Russia has denied involvement, accusing the U.K. and the U.S. of using the attack as part of a campaign to smear Russia.
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