BULGARIA (AFP) – Fourteen member states of the European Union are expelling Russian diplomats in a coordinated response to the nerve agent attack on a former spy in the English city of Salisbury, EU President Donald Tusk said yesterday.
“As a direct follow-up to last week’s European Council decision to react to Russia within a common framework, already today 14 member states have decided to expel Russian diplomats,” Mr Tusk told a news conference in Varna, Bulgaria.
“Additional measures including further expulsions are not to be excluded in the coming days and weeks.”
The move came after British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed fellow European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels to urge them to support Britain’s assessment that Russia was to blame.
The 28 EU states issued a statement saying they agreed it was highly likely Russia was responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4, and ordered the recall of the bloc’s ambassador to Moscow.
Germany, France and Poland have so far said they will each expel four Russia diplomats, the Czech Republic and Lithuania three, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands two, and Latvia one.
The United States also announced it was expelling 60 diplomats and closing the Russian consulate in Seattle.
US President Donald Trump authorised yesterday the expulsion of alleged Russian spies.
Senior administration officials said that 48 “known intelligence officers” at the Russian consulate in Seattle and 12 more at the Russian mission to the United Nations have seven days to leave the country.
Mr Trump has also ordered the closure of the consulate in Seattle, which officials said was the focus of spying efforts against the nearby Kitsap submarine base and Boeing.
One senior administration official said that there were still more than 40 known Russian intelligence officers operating in the United States, but Moscow’s “collection capabilities” would be “significantly” affected by the move.
After initial mixed messages about who was to blame, Washington now agrees with Britain’s assessment Russia was behind the attack.
The message, a second senior administration said, is “when you attack our friends you will face consequences.”
Canada also announced the expulsion of four Russian diplomats.
“We are taking these measures in solidarity with the United Kingdom,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.