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Russia retaliates: Will expel 60 US diplomats and close US consulate in St. Pete

Russian President Vladimir Putin (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)
March 29, 2018

Russia will expel U.S. diplomats from its country, it announced Thursday – the same number of diplomats that the United States expelled earlier this week in response to Moscow’s use of a nerve agent to try and kill a Russian ex-spy and his daughter.

Russia will also close down the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, it said, as well as expel the same number of diplomats from other countries who also kicked out Russian diplomats.

The U.S. on Monday expelled 60 Russian diplomats and announced it will close the Russian consulate in Seattle, Washington, after Russia is accused of deliberately trying to poison an ex-spy in the U.K.

Forty-eight diplomats are being told to leave the Russian embassy and 12 must leave the United Nations. The diplomats and their families have been given one week to leave the country.

There are reportedly about 100 Russian intelligence officers in the U.S., which makes this expulsion especially significant.

Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Theresa May retaliated against Russia and announced the country is kicking out 23 Russian diplomats following the nerve agent poison attack on a Russian ex-spy and his daughter.

Russia is suspected of the attempted assassination of a former spy and his daughter, after they were both found poisoned in England earlier this month.

Russia said the accusations were “nonsense,” and it a few weeks ago ignored a midnight deadline to explain how the nerve agent was used in the attack.

Following the United States’ announcement, the Russian Embassy in the U.S. on Twitter put up a poll asking users what U.S. consulate it thinks Russian should close in response to the United States’ actions on Monday.

Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., said Monday that the decision was “counterproductive,” a “very bad step,” and that the U.S. “will understand what kind of grave mistake they did,” adding that he hopes relations will be restored.