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Trump expels 60 Russian diplomats; closing of Seattle consulate

President Donald Trump (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
March 26, 2018

The U.S. is expelling 60 Russian diplomats and closing 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.

“With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences. The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behavior,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, Fox News reported.

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And, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said: “Today, the United States began the process of expelling 12 intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission to the United Nations who have abused their privilege of residence in the United States. After a review, we have determined that the 12 intelligence operatives engaged in espionage activities that are adverse to‎ our national security,” Fox reported.

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.

Britain also cut off all high-level contacts with Moscow. May had said the government will also freeze any Russian assets in the U.K. and cancel high-level bilateral meetings. It will also cancel any government and Royal family trips to the World Cup in Russia.

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The actions were prompted by the attempted poison assassination, and are likely also prompted by another recent event – a former KGB agent, Andrey Lugovoy, has been linked to a dead Russian businessman who was found in London with “strangulation marks;” the former agent is also accused of poisoning Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko with polonium.

U.K. police revealed earlier this month that a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent in England, which raised speculation that the Russian government ordered the “targeted” assassination attempt.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, “were targeted specifically.” Both fell ill and are thought to be in serious condition.

Some emergency workers who responded to the scene where the two were found are now sick, and one police officer was also in critical condition.

Skripal is a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who was convicted of selling secrets to Great Britain in 2006, and was then sent to Britain in 2010 as part of a prisoner swap.