- More than 100 Russian agents are being sent home from 23 countries
- US to expel 60 diplomats over nerve agent attack
- Trump orders closure of Russian consulate in Seattle
- Canada expels four Russian diplomats and refuses entry to three more
- Many EU member nations expel Russian diplomatic staff in solidarity with the UK
- Russia describes expulsions as a ‘provocative gesture’
Scores of Russian diplomats are facing expulsion from Western capitals as allies rallied in an unprecedented show of support for Britain over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
More than 100 agents are being sent home from 22 countries in what Theresa May called the “largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history”.
They include 60 from the US and intelligence officers operating in Canada, Ukraine, Norway, Macedonia and Albania, as well as across the European Union.
NATO announced on Tuesday it had expelled seven diplomats from Russia’s mission to the alliance and also cut the mission’s maximum size to 20 people from 30.
“It sends a very clear message to Russia that it has costs,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.
Moldova also expelled three Russian diplomats, bringing the worldwide total to 122.
Who has expelled who as of March 26, courtesy of Statista
EU member states Germany, France and Poland also announced they would be expelling four diplomats each; Lithuania and the Czech Republic said they would expel three; and Denmark and Italy and the Netherlands said they would expel two each – a remarkable sign of international solidarity for the UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
The White House said in a statement it had taken the decision in conjunction with Nato allies 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 destabilising activities around the world.”
“We welcome today’s actions by our allies, which clearly demonstrate that we all stand shoulder to shoulder in sending the strongest signal to Russia that it cannot continue to flout international law,” a statement from May’s office said.
Speaking later in the Commons, she said: “President Putin’s regime is carrying out acts of aggression against our shared values and interests within our continent and beyond.
“As a sovereign European democracy, the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder with the EU and with Nato to face down these threats together.”
She added: “Together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values.”
The White House statement added that the US “stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behaviour.”
The expulsion order included 12 intelligence officers from Russia’s mission to the United Nations headquarters in New York. It emerged Trump has also ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.
Last week the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats, who were seen leaving the Russian embassy following an emotional farewell ceremony.
On Monday, 15 EU states followed suit after discussions at the European Council summit last week. European Council president Donald Tusk announced further measures could materialise in the coming days and weeks.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described the international response as “extraordinary”, adding: “Russia cannot break international rules with impunity.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that it viewed the expulsions as an unfriendly act and a provocative gesture.
“The provocative gesture of solidarity with London by these countries, who have bowed to the British authorities in the so-called Skripal affair and did not bother to understand the circumstances of what happened, is a continuation of the confrontational path to escalation,” the statement said.
“Britain’s allies ... are blindly following the principle of Euro-Atlantic unity, to the detriment of common sense, the norms of civilized international dialogue, and the principles of international law.”
“It goes without saying that this unfriendly act by this group of countries will not go without notice and we will react to it,” the statement said.
Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told journalists that two Russian diplomats must leave the country. “The Russian explanations of the incident are more or less imaginative, several of them are self-contradictory and are probably mostly a smokescreen to create doubt,” he said.
Meanwhile, Canada is expelling four Russian diplomats and refusing entry to three more, foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said.
The four being expelled were “intelligence officers or individuals who have used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in our democracy”, she said.
Describing the Salisbury attack as a “despicable, heinous and reckless act, potentially endangering the lives of hundreds”, she added: “The nerve agent attack represents a clear threat to the rules-based international order and to the rules that were established by the international community to ensure chemical weapons would never again destroy human lives.
The diplomatic reaction follows the use of a chemical weapon in the 4 March attempted murder of Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, in Salisbury. Both remain in a critical condition in hospital.
BRITAIN: Expelled 23 Russians alleged to have worked as spies under diplomatic cover. Promised to freeze any Russian state assets that “may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents.”
UNITED STATES: Expelling 60 Russians, including 12 intelligence officers from Russia’s mission to UN headquarters in New York. Closing Russian consulate in Seattle.
CANADA: Expelling four Russians alleged to have worked as spies or interfered in Canadian affairs under diplomatic cover. Denying three applications for Russian diplomatic staff.
FRANCE: Expelling four diplomats
FINLAND: Expelling one diplomat
GERMANY: Expelling four diplomats
POLAND: Expelling four diplomats
ITALY: Expelling two diplomats
LITHUANIA: Expelling three diplomats
CZECH REPUBLIC: Expelling three diplomats
NETHERLANDS: Expelling two diplomats
DENMARK: Expelling two diplomats
ROMANIA - Expelling one diplomat
CROATIA - Expelling one diplomat
SWEDEN - Expelling one diplomat
LATVIA: Expelling one diplomat
ESTONIA: Expelling one diplomat
FINLAND: Expelling one diplomat
UKRAINE: Expelling 13 Russian diplomats