Almost two dozen countries across Europe, plus Australia and Canada, have joined the United States in expelling Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in the British city of Salisbury earlier this month.
A total of 16 EU member states, including France, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, plus Ukraine, Albania and Macedonia announced the expulsion of the envoys on Monday. Additional measures aren’t off the table, European Commission president Donald Tusk said.
Minutes before the European countries announced their own measures, the White House said that it would eject 60 diplomats, including intelligence officers from Russia’s mission to the United Nations, and close Russia’s consulate in Seattle.
“The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world,” according to the official statement.
Canada also announced the expulsion of four Russian diplomats “in solidarity with the United Kingdom.”
Australia followed suit on Tuesday, giving two Russian diplomats seven days to leave. This brings the total to 23 countries that have announced expulsions of more than 115 Russian diplomats around the world, British Prime Minister Theresa May said.
The moves follow the British decision to expel 23 diplomats, which Prime Minister Theresa May said was necessary due to Russia’s repeated denial of responsibility in the incident.
Russia responded almost immediately, announcing its intention to expel diplomats in retaliation. Russian ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov slammed the U.S. decision as the nail in the coffin of bilateral relations, and the country’s foreign ministry threatened Tuesday to “respond appropriately.”
“The United States took a very bad step by cutting what very little still remains in terms of Russian-American relations,” he said.
The ex-spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, remain hospitalized in critical condition. The police officer who had also been hospitalized after being exposed to the nerve agent was released last week.