Western allies rally around UK and expel dozens of Russian diplomats

Western allies rally around UK and expel dozens of Russian diplomats
3 min read
26 March, 2018
Dozens of Russian diplomats are being expelled from the US, Canada and EU as UK allies rally around London following the nerve gas attack on a dissident in England.
Russian diplomats are being expelled from the US, Canada and EU [AFP]

Dozens of Russian diplomats are being expelled from the US, Canada and EU, as the UK's allies make a show of solidarity after weeks of tensions between Moscow and London.

US President Donald Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 diplomats - referred to as "Russian spies" - in response to a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury, earlier this month.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the US coordinated with its allies against Moscow, "in response to Russia's use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom".

Officials said that 48 "known intelligence officers" in the US and 12 more at the Russian mission to the United Nations have been given a week to leave the country.

Trump also ordered the Russian consulate in Seattle to close.

In a flurry of activity 14 EU countries, Canada and Ukraine also announced Monday they would expel Russian diplomats.

Canada ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats and denied credentials for three others, a statement read.

"We are taking these measures in solidarity with the United Kingdom," Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.

"The nerve agent attack in Salisbury - on the soil of Canada's close partner and ally - is a despicable, heinous and reckless act, potentially endangering the lives of hundreds."

On 4 March, former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious outside a shopping center in Salisbury. 

A British policeman who attended the scene was also treated in hospital after the attack and recently discharged.

EU President Donald Tusk said Monday that the bloc would also support the UK on the issue.

"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.

"Additional measures including further expulsions are not to be excluded in the coming days and weeks."

Germany, France and Poland said they will each expel four Russia diplomats, the Czech Republic and Lithuania three, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands two, and Latvia one.

Russia has vowed to retaliate against the expulsions, in what it described as a "provocative gesture".

"We express a decisive protest over the decision taken by a number of EU and NATO countries to expel Russian diplomats," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The UK has attempted to rally support after is expelled Russian diplomats and reduced diplomatic ties following the nerve agent attack.

The response from some of its allies was slow, particularly US President Donald Trump. The new gestures by its US and EU partners will likely embolden the UK in the diplomatic standoff with Russia.

On Monday, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson hailed the "extraordinary international response".

"Today's extraordinary international response by our allies stands in history as the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever and will help defend our shared security," Johnson wrote in a tweet.

Agencies contributed to this story.