Moscow : Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Tuesday said that Moscow will respond “harshly” to the decision by Washington and a number of Western countries to expel Russian diplomats over an alleged nerve agent attack on a former spy living in the UK.
She said that “the US had once again directed false accusations at Russia”, and that it “threatens and attempts to turn everything upside down”, Sputnik news agency reported.
“We are open to constructive work, we will continue it, but without a tough response to yesterday’s decision by the US authorities against our diplomatic missions, the current situation will not persist,” Ryabkov said.
Ryabkov also said that Russia was not abandoning the strategic stability talks with Washington.
“We need this dialogue… We are not giving up this dialogue, we will hold it, reports IANS.
The US on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats, joining governments across Europe in punishing the Kremlin for the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia that they blamed on Moscow.
Skripal and Yulia suffered the chemical attack in Salisbury on March 4 and were in a serious but stable condition in hospital. British officials identified the chemical as Novichok, a nerve agent developed by Russia during the Cold War.
‘US blackmails allies for expulsion’
Tashkent: Moscow on Tuesday charged Washington had put “colossal pressure” on allies to expel scores of Russian diplomats, and vowed to retaliate.
“This is the result of colossal pressure, colossal blackmail which is the main instrument of Washington on the international arena,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Uzbekistan.
“We’ll respond, have no doubt! No one wants to put up with such loutish behaviour and we won’t.” At least 116 alleged agents working under diplomatic cover were ordered out by 22 governments yesterday, dwarfing similar measures in even the most notorious Cold War spying disputes.
The expulsions were a response to the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, reports IANS.
Expulsions of Russian diplomats were ordered by the United States Canada and Australia as well as a number of European Union countries, Albania and Ukraine.
The row has plunged Russia’s relations with the West to new lows amid ongoing tensions over Ukraine and Syria.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent, Lavrov said the expulsions justified Russia’s view that there are “few independent countries” remaining in Europe.
Comments by British Prime Minister Theresa May blaming Russia for the poisoning were “simply an affront to the system of Anglo-Saxon justice system,” Lavrov added.
Britain had urged allies to take strong action in response to the attack that left former Russian spy Skripal and his daughter in critical condition.
The United States responded particularly strongly, ordering 60 Russians to leave embassies and consulates and shutting down the Russian consulate general in Seattle.
Australia also joined in the coordinated diplomatic move, expelling two Russian diplomats today that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said were “undeclared intelligence officers”.
The US called the 60 Russian officials “spies”, including a dozen based at the UN, and told Moscow to shut down its consulate in Seattle, which would end Russian diplomatic representation on the West Coast.
The EU members Germany, France and Poland are each to expel four Russian diplomats with intelligence agency backgrounds. Lithuania and the Czech Republic said they would expel three, and Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands two each, according to the Guardian.
Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Sweden and Romania each expelled one Russian. Iceland announced it would not be sending officials to the World Cup in Russia.
Ukraine, which is not an EU member, is to expel 13 Russian diplomats, while Albania, an EU candidate member, ordered the departure of two Russians from the embassy in Tirana. Macedonia, another EU candidate, expelled one Russian official.
Canada announced it was expelling four diplomatic staff serving in Ottawa and Montreal who the government said were spies.
Australia confirmed that it too would expel two Russian diplomats who were in the country as undeclared intelligence officers, giving them seven days to leave.
Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats last week and Russia ordered retaliatory expulsions.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia called Washington’s decision a “very unfortunate and very unfriendly move”.
New Zealand can’t find Russian spies to expel
Wellington: New Zealand said on Tuesday it would like to expel Russian spies in retaliation for allegedly poisoning an ex-agent in Britain – only it can’t find any Moscow operatives in the remote South Pacific nation. New Zealand, a former British colony and staunch London ally, offered in-principle support but admitted a lack of Russian spy activity meant there was little action it could take. “We have done a check in New Zealand. We don’t have Russian undeclared intelligence officers in Wellington. If we did, we would expel them,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told state radio.
NATO expels 7 Russian envoys
Brussels: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said the alliance was expelling seven Russian diplomats and denying accreditation to three more as part of international measures over the poisoning of a former spy in Britain.”I have today withdrawn the accreditation of seven staff of the Russian mission to NATO. I will also deny the pending accreditatio request for three others,” Stoltenberg told a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“This will send a clear message to Russia that there are costs and consequences for their unacceptable pattern of behaviour.” AFP
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