North Atlantic Treaty Organisation expels seven Russian diplomats over ex-spy poisoning

Saul Bowman
March 28, 2018

NATO has reduced the staff of Russia's mission from 30 to 20 over the reported poisoning of former GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, which London blames on Moscow, NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels.

"It sends a very clear message to Russian Federation that it has costs", Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

He says North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will also deny the pending accreditation request of three other workers at the Russian mission. They remain in critical condition.

"We know for certain that this is a result of colossal pressure and colossal blackmail, which is Washington's chief instrument in the global scene", said Lavrov.

The move came after more than 20 western allies ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom, in a show of solidarity that represents the biggest concerted blow to Russian intelligence networks in the West since the cold war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier in the day claimed the U.S. had used "colossal blackmail" to force European and other western powers to expel Russian diplomats, and promised Moscow would respond harshly to the expulsion of over 100 diplomats worldwide.

Asked on Monday about a report that the USA would also expel Russian diplomats, presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia will act according to the principle of reciprocity.

Sergei Skripal, a Russian military intelligence officer imprisoned by Moscow after being convicted of passing on information about Russian agents in various European countries, came to Britain in a 2010 spy swap. "We'll respond, have no doubt".

Moscow has denied any involvement in the incident.

Outside the EU, Canada, Australia, Ukraine, Macedonia, and Norway also announced expulsions.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, hinted the Kremlin would respond with tit-for-tat expulsions, saying Russian Federation would proceed from the "principle of reciprocity".

On March 27, Ireland and Moldova followed suit, becoming the latest countries to order out Russian diplomats.

The list includes 22 European countries including Britain itself which led the way by expelling 23 diplomats.

It followed moves by governments in Europe, the United States and beyond to expel more than 100 Russian diplomats in retaliation for an alleged attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.

A removal van was seen outside the Russian embassy in London on Tuesday, as Moscow is awaiting almost two dozen Russian diplomats ordered to leave Britain as part of a standoff over a nerve agent attack on British soil.

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