The US and EU have expelled dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack in the UK, the Guardian reported on Sunday.
The US has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian officials who Washington says are spies, including a dozen based at the United Nations.
EU members Germany, France and Poland are each to expel four Russian diplomats with intelligence agency backgrounds. Lithuania said it would expel three Russian diplomats and ban 44 Russian nationals from entering the country. Ukraine, which is not an EU member, is to expel 13 Russian diplomats.
The UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning, and Russia responded by ejecting the same number of British diplomats.
The Russian consulate in Seattle is also being closed as part of the US’s package of punitive measures. A senior US official said that the consulate closure and the expulsions would be carried out “in solidarity with our closest allies” in reaction to what he said was “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.
Russia promised it would take reciprocal action against Washington. It said the UK had not presented a single fact proving that Moscow was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
The officials being expelled from the US include 48 in the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 at the Russian mission at the UN, who the US say are spies, engaged in “aggressive collection here in the US”.
US officials said that the spies at the UN were abusing their residence privileges under the UN headquarters agreement. They added that there were over 100 Russian spies in the US and the expulsions would significantly reduce Russian espionage capabilities in the country. The expelled Russians have seven days to leave the country.
The White House had initially been cautious in its response, refusing to blame the Kremlin. Senior officials said the nature of the Russian response to UK allegations held led to the definitive US conclusion that the Kremlin was responsible.
“Russia has had nearly a month to respond but instead of explaining has engaged in the usual obfuscation we have seen in the past,” a US official said.
EU heads of state concluded last week that it was highly likely the Russian state was responsible for the attack. The EU is also looking at coordinated steps to rein back Russian hybrid warfare.