Russia will close down the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg and expel 60 diplomats — retaliating against the Trump administration for booting the same number of Russians in solidarity with Britain over the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy.
Britain and Russia have expelled 23 of each other’s diplomats as the Cold War-style diplomatic showdown has escalated.
More than two dozen countries have backed Britain by kicking out more than 150 Russian diplomats.
European nations, Canada, Australia and NATO have joined in. The U.S. booted the largest number of Russians and closed a consulate in Seattle.
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Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman was summoned on Thursday, where he was given notice that Russia is responding quid pro quo to the U.S.
He said that the Kremlin will respond in kind to other countries as well.
Lavrov emphasized that the expulsions followed “brutal pressure” from the U.S. and Britain, which forced their allies to “follow the anti-Russian course.”
The ministry warned that if the U.S. takes further “hostile actions” against Russian missions, the Kremlin will follow suit.
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“We invite the U.S. authorities who are encouraging a slanderous campaign against our country to come back to their senses and stop thoughtless actions to destroy bilateral relations,” the agency said in a statement.
U.S. officials said there’s “no justification” for Russia’s retaliatory acts.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that “Russia should not be acting like a victim.”
She calls Russia’s actions “regrettable” and “unwarranted.”
British authorities believe that ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent made in Russia.
Yulia Skripal, 33, is “improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition. Her condition is now stable,” according to Dr. Christine Blanshard, medical director at Salisbury District Hospital.
Sergei Skripal, 66, remains in critical condition, the hospital said.
Police say the pair were likely exposed to the poison on the door of Sergei Skripal’s suburban home in Salisbury.
Hundreds of British counterterrorism officers are working on the investigation.
They have searched a pub, a restaurant and a cemetery as they attempt to find out how the poison was delivered.
On Thursday, authorities cordoned off a children’s playground near the Skripal home.
Moscow vehemently denies involvement in the attack.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that Britain’s allegation is a “swindle” and an “international provocation.”
She said Russia continued to demand access to investigation materials, which Britain has refused to share.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the world is approaching a situation “similar” to the Cold War as tensions rise.
He told reporters Thursday he is “very concerned.”
With News Wire Services
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