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Russia to expel 60 U.S. diplomats and close consulate in St. Petersburg

This is Moscow's response to the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats from Washington and 26 other countries

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Russia to expel 60 U.S. diplomats and close consulate in St. Petersburg

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Thursday that Moscow will expel 60 U.S. diplomats and close U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. It is response of Russian government to expulsion by Washington and 26 or countries, 19 of m from EU, of more than 150 Russian diplomats living in ir territories in retaliation for attempted murder with a chemical agent of ex-spy Sergey Skripa L and her daughter earlier this month in Salisbury, United Kingdom. London blames Russia, and Moscow denies being responsible for attack.

More information
  • The daughter of Russian spy poisoned in UK "quickly improves"
  • The police believe that first contact of Skripal and his daughter with nerve agent was at home
  • 14 European countries join expulsion of Russian diplomats

The Russian government has convened U.S. ambassador, John Huntsman, to report retaliatory measures to his country's decision to expel Russian diplomats on Thursday. "Literally, at moment American ambassador has been summoned to foreign ministry, where he is communicating content of response measures against United States," said Lavrov at a press conference. The minister has pointed out that se measures are similar to those taken on Monday by Washington, which expelled 60 Russian diplomats and announced closure of ir consulate in Seattle. Moscow has also "withdrawn permit for operation in St. Petersburg of Consulate-General of United States", as detailed by Foreign Minister.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pointed out that 58 embassy workers in Moscow and two diplomats from Consulate general in Yekaterinburg have been declared persona non grata and must leave country before 5 April. "As for rest of countries, re will also be a symmetrical response to number of people in diplomatic missions who must leave Russia," said Lavrov, as reported by Russian news agency Sputnik.

This Tuesday, an unidentified source from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, quoted by official Ria agency, had already warned of a symmetrical response to massive expulsion of at least 154 diplomats from U.S. and 26 or countries. "We will work on it in coming days and respond to each of countries," said this source.

Skripal, a Russian ex-spy who became a double agent at Secret Service of ML6 — British intelligence — was arrested and sentenced in Russia in middle of last decade. After his release, in 2010 in a spy exchange, he received shelter in UK and settled in Salisbury. In this British town, he and his daughter Yulia, aged 66 and 33, were found unconscious last March 4 in a bank. British researchers have determined that y were poisoned with a nerve gas in an attack that, according to British Government's conclusions, is "highly probable" to order Russia. The toxic agent employed, known as Novichok, was conceived by Soviet military sector decades ago. Moscow categorically denies accusations and requires participation in investigation of what has happened.

Skripal and her daughter continue to be admitted to hospital. She "quickly improves and her condition is no longer critical," as explained by medical team that serves her. The double agent is still "critical, but stable," doctors have pointed out.

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