Dozens of Russians have been expelled from America and some European countries in solidarity to controversy in the United Kingdom.
The US, the EU, Canada and Ukraine have ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack in the UK, in a show of solidarity that represents the biggest concerted blow to Russian intelligence networks in the west since the cold war.
More than 100 Russian diplomats in western countries alleged to be spies are being told to return to Moscow, in a coordinated response to the use of a chemical weapon in the 4 March attempted murder of , a former Russian intelligence official, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury.
“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,” the UK foreign secretary, .
The Russian government warned it would retaliate in kind, raising the prospect of further tit-for-tat expulsions, as the US and Europe left the door open for additional measures. The Kremlin said Vladimir Putin would make the final decision, and the Russian embassy in the US launched a poll on on which US consulate in Russia should be closed.
The US has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian officials who Washington says are spies, including a dozen based at the United Nations, and told Moscow to shut down its consulate in Seattle, which would end Russian diplomatic representation on the west coast.
EU members Germany, France and Poland are each to expel four Russian diplomats with intelligence agency backgrounds. Lithuania and the Czech Republic said they would expel three with Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands expelling two each. Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Finland and Romania expelled one Russian.
Ukraine, which is not an EU member, is to expel 13 Russian diplomats, while Albania, an EU candidate member, ordered the departure of two Russians at the embassy in Tirana.
Canada also announced it was expelling four diplomatic staff serving in Ottowa and Montreal, who the Canadian government said were spies. A pending application from Moscow for three more diplomatic posts in Canada is being denied.
The UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning, and Russia responded by ejecting the same number of British diplomats.
Moscow has insisted that the UK had not presented evidence that Moscow was behind the poisoning of the Skripals. The UK has refused to provide a sample of the nerve agent to Russia but has supplied one the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is conducting its own investigation.
A senior US official said that the expulsions and the Seattle consulate closure were in response to “a reckless attempt by the [Russian] government to murder a British citizen and his daughter with a military grade nerve agent”.
A second official said the measures were also intended as a response to a “steady drumbeat of destabilising and aggressive actions” by Moscow against the US and its allies.