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Russia To Expel 150 Western Diplomats, Closed U.S Consulate In St. Perteburg |RN

By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
 (Video provided by Wochit News)

 

LONDON — Intensifying Russia’s clash with Europe and the United States, the Kremlin on Thursday announced that it would expel 150 Western diplomats, and close the United States Consulate in St. Petersburg.

The tit-for-tat action was in retaliation for the expulsion of more than 150 Russian officials from other countries — which was itself a reaction to a nerve-agent attack on British soil that Britain and its allies have blamed on Moscow.

The United States ambassador to Russia, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., was summoned to the Kremlin, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov announced. Sixty American diplomats will be expelled from Russia — the same as the number of Russian diplomats whom Washington has expelled.  The Americans were given until April 5 to leave the country.

a car parked in front of a building: The United States consulate in Saint Petersburg, Russia, will be closed, the Kremlin announced.© Olga Maltseva/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images The United States consulate in Saint Petersburg, Russia, will be closed, the Kremlin announced.

The crisis over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter has driven tensions between the Kremlin and the West to their highest pitch in decades. The tit-for-tat responses raise the prospect of further, more serious escalations, either public or clandestine.

Relations were already rocky, over Moscow’s roles in the wars in Syria and Ukraine, its forcible annexation of Crimea, its meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, the assassination of Kremlin foes in Russia and abroad, cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns against other countries and what Western officials have described as a broad, largely covert effort to destabilize and discredit liberal democracies.

Russia as a whole, and many powerful Russians individually, are already under economic sanctions by the West, and London has vowed to tighten its scrutiny and control of the vast Russian wealth — much of it held by allies of President Vladimir V. Putin — that has flowed into Britain in recent years. Britain has also said it will re-examine several suspicious deaths of Kremlin opponents.

Mr Putin and his government have denied any involvement in the March 4 attack on Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, and have tried to cast blame on Britain, the United States, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and others.

The Skripals were found unconscious is a busy shopping area in the small English city of Salisbury, where Mr Skripal lives. He remains hospitalized in critical condition, but his daughter’s health has improved, British officials announced on Thursday. British officials say that hundreds of people could have been exposed to the toxin used against them.

Prime Minister Theresa May and her government contend that they were poisoned with one of an extremely powerful class of nerve agents known as “novichok,” developed by Soviet scientists in the 1970s and ’80s. They claim to have solid evidence that Russia was probably behind the attack, and that Mr Putin himself probably approved it.

The British government has not made its evidence public but has shared it with its major allies, who have said that they agree with London’s conclusions. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international body that polices a chemical weapons ban treaty, is investigating.

President Trump, who has long been loath to criticize Mr Putin or his government, has made no public statement on the nerve-agent attack or who was to blame for it. But officials in his administration have publicly backed Ms May’s statements, and on Monday the president ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian officials who work in the United States, and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.
More than 20 other countries, primarily European, also announced expulsions on Monday, and a few more joined in on Tuesday, as did NATO headquarters in Brussels. The expulsions were a remarkable show of international unity and coordination, in solidarity with Britain, which had already forced 23 Russian officials to leave the country; Moscow responded by expelling 23 Britons.

In all, 27 countries have ejected more than 150 Russians, including people listed by their embassies and consulates as diplomats, and military and cultural attaches. Western officials say that many of the Russians are actually spies and that the expulsions will hinder Russian espionage efforts.

Mr Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence, was imprisoned in Russia for selling secrets to Britain. He was sent to Britain in 2010 as part of a spy swap. Why he would be targeted years later is unclear, but political and security analysts have said that the attack served as a warning to those who would cross Mr Putin that even in exile, they are never beyond the Kremlin’s reach.

On March 12, Nikolai A. Glushkov, a former Russian business executive and critic of the government, died suddenly at his home in London, and the police are treating the case as a murder investigation.   (The New York Times)

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BREAKING: US Expels 60 Russian Diplomats, Germany, Poland Follow In Response To Spy Poisoning

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam © Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam  

Donald Trump has expelled 60 Russian diplomats from America as punishment for the Salisbury poisoning and to protect the country from spying.

Donald Tusk, president of the EU council, has announced that 14 member states have decided to expel Russian diplomats on Monday.

File photo of Sergei Skripal                  © Getty File photo of Sergei Skripal

EU leaders agreed last week it was highly likely Russia was behind the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in the UK.Some 48 diplomats at the Russian embassy have been asked to leave and 12 Russians who work at the United Nations. The Russian consulate in Seattle will also be closed.

File photo of Putin              © Getty File photo of Putin

Senior US administration officials said the Russians being expelled were intelligence officers who are being “cloaked” by their diplomatic status.The US officials accused Russia of a “reckless attempt” to murder British citizens on UK soil and said the attack would not go unpunished.

File photo dated 08/07/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May holding talks with US President Donald Trump on the margins of the G20 summit in Hamburg. © PA File photo dated 08/07/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May holding talks with US President Donald Trump on the margins of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

 

US officials said that the lives of “countless” innocent people including children had been put at risk by the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

They also blamed the Kremlin directly for the attack.

‘World’s patience wearing thin with Putin’

A senior US administration official said: “This was a reckless attempt by the government to murder a British citizen and his daughter on British soil with a military-grade nerve agent. It cannot go unanswered.

Prime Minister Theresa May, with Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, in Salisbury © PA Prime Minister Theresa May, with Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, in Salisbury

“The Salisbury attack was only the latest in a long series of Russian efforts to undermine international peace and stability.

“The Russian government has shown malicious contempt for the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide. It has repeatedly sought to subvert and discredit Western institutions. These efforts are ongoing.

Military personnel in College Street Car Park in Salisbury           © PA Military personnel in College Street Car Park in Salisbury

“Today we stand in solidarity with America’s closest ally, the United Kingdom. To the Russian government, we say: ‘When you attack our friends you will face serious consequences.”

The diplomats and their families have seven days to leave the country. Moscow’s ambassador to Washington warned the US was “destroying what little is left of relations with Russia”.

Barriers erected outside a Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury         © PA Barriers erected outside a Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury

A number of European states, including Germany and Poland, have announced similar moves this morning. The German foreign ministry confirmed Berlin has expelled four Russian diplomats over the Salisbury attack while Poland has said it is also expelling four of the state’s diplomats.

Russian diplomatic staff based in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Estonia have also been asked to leave.

Personnel in hazmat suits work to secure a tent covering a bench in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury © PA Personnel in hazmat suits work to secure a tent covering a bench in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury

US officials said the 60 Russians were part more than 100 spies operating in America. They said they would make decisions in the future about what to do with those remaining.

Mr Trump has not discussed the move with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. US officials did not rule out the possibility of new economic sanctions on Russia as punishment for Salisbury, saying instead when asked that there was nothing to announce.

The action comes after more than a fortnight of mixed messages over America’s willingness to take a tough line on Russia for the Salisbury poisoning.

The White House declined to point the finger at Russia explicitly the day Theresa May linked the Kremlin with the attack during an address in the House of Commons.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam

 

Mr Trump also failed to mention that attack during a phone call with Mr Putin last week and at times has not matched the critical rhetoric of cabinet colleagues and officials.Senior US administration officials pushed back on the suggestion they had been sending “mixed messages” on Monday, saying that they stood with Britain over the attack.        (The Telegraph)

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