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14 EU states expel Russian diplomats

Washington, Monday

Fourteen EU states are expelling Russian diplomats in a coordinated response to the nerve agent attack on a former spy in the British city of Salisbury, EU President Donald Tusk said today.

“As a direct follow-up to last week’s European Council decision to react to Russia within a common framework, already today 14 member states have decided to expel Russian diplomats,” Tusk told a news conference in Varna, Bulgaria.

At the same time, US President Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats over the ex-spy poisoning case in the UK. At least 48 of the envoys to be expelled are said to be based at the Russian embassy in Washington and the others are at the UN in New York.

German’s foreign ministry also confirmed it will expel four Russian diplomats. Various other European countries are reported to be following suit. EU leaders agreed last week it was highly likely Russia was behind the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter.

The US will also order the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, according to Reuters new agency. Meanwhile, Germany’s foreign minister said Berlin had ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats over the poisoning, as EU nations step up the pressure on Moscow.

“After the Salisbury poisoning Russia has still not helped clarify the situation. We did not take this decision lightly,” foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter.

The move comes as part of a coordinated effort by EU nations and the US to punish Russia over the brazen nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4.

The foreign ministers of Lithuania and Poland also said they would expel Russia diplomats in solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury.

“We handed a note to the ambassador that three Russian embassy officials are declared persona non grata for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP. Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz, for his part, told reporters: “The four Russian diplomats have until midnight on April 3 to leave Poland.”

Denmark has also confirmed it will expel two Russian envoys over spy attack. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his decision to expel 13 diplomats was taken “in the spirit of solidarity with our British partners and transatlantic allies and in coordination with EU countries”. —AFP & BBC

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