London : The UK government on Monday hailed the largest collective expulsion of Russian “intelligence officers” in history after the US and several EU members announced a coordinated response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK earlier this month.

 In a House of Commons statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that 18 countries have announced their intention to expel more than 100 Russian intelligence officers from their countries, including 15 European Union member states as well as the US, Canada and the Ukraine.

“This is the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history… together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values,” May said.  The UK had found “great solidarity” from allies around the world over the attempted murders of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a deadly Russian-made nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4.

 “President Putin’s regime is carrying out acts of aggression against our shared values and interests within our continent and beyond. And as a sovereign European democracy, the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder with the EU and with NATO to face down these threats together,” she said. Her statement in Parliament came as the US, Canada and European countries announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats from their countries.

Russia, which denies any role in the attack on the Skripals, said it would retaliate to the “provocative gesture”.

“It goes without saying that this unfriendly act by this group of countries will not go without notice and we will react to it,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. EU leaders had agreed last week at a European Council summit in Brussels that it was highly likely Russia was behind the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.

Action against Russia retaliatory; no message for India, says US 

Washington: The US’ expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats is not intended at sending any message to a country like India which has an equally strong relationship with both Moscow and Washington, senior Trump administration officials said on Monday. In a decision reminiscent of the Cold War era, the US expelled 60 Russian diplomats, describing them as “intelligence officers” and ordered closure of the country’s consulate in Seattle over the use of nerve agent allegedly by Moscow against a former Russian spy in the UK. A dozen of these expelled diplomats are based at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN. “This is a response to the attack in Salisbury, but it’s also a part of a broader set of actions that the Russians have taken for quite some time internationally: a steady drumbeat of destabilising and aggressive actions,” a senior official said on the condition of anonymity.

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