Trump kicks out 60 Russian ‘spies’
THE Trump administration has expelled 60 Russian diplomats and ordered Russia's consulate in Seattle to close, as the United States and European nations sought to jointly punish Moscow for its alleged role in poisoning an ex-spy in Britain.
It comes as Canada also ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats and denied credentials for three others, while Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic followed suit.
Senior Trump administration officials said all 60 Russians were spies working in the US under diplomatic cover, including a dozen at Russia's mission to the United Nations.
The officials said the administration was taking the action to send a message to Russia's leaders about the "unacceptably high" number of Russian intelligence operatives in the US.
The expelled Russians will have seven days to leave the US, said the officials. They weren't authorised to be identified by name and requested anonymity. They added that the Seattle consulate is a counterintelligence concern because of its proximity to a US Navy base.
Russia's ambassador to the US says Washington's decision to expel the diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain is destroying what is left of Russia-US ties.
Anatoly Antonov denounced the US move as ill-considered and provocative and said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Moscow will make an "adequate" response.
He said on Monday that the US is "ruining what is left of Russian-US ties," adding that Washington will bear responsibility for the consequences.
Britain has blamed Russia for the March 4 poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, accusations Moscow has fiercely denied. In a show of solidarity with Britain, the US and the EU have announced expulsions of Russian diplomats.
The White House said the expulsion of Russian diplomats and closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle will "make the United States safer".
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Mr Trump was responding to "Russia's use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom".
She said the move will reduce "Russia's ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America's national security", adding the US and allies want to send a message to Russia that "actions have consequences".
The move was one of the most significant actions Mr Trump's administration has taken to date to push back on Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Less than a week ago, Mr Trump congratulated Putin by phone for his re-election but didn't raise the spy case, renewing questions about whether the US president is too soft on the Kremlin.
The US' actions came as more than a dozen nations, including those in Russia's neighbourhood, announced similar steps to reduce Russia's diplomatic presence in their countries or other actions to punish Moscow.
Poland expelled four high-ranking Russian diplomats, while the Czech Republic said that the country is kicking out three staffers from its Russian embassy.
Germany also expelled four staffers from the Russian embassy in Berlin.
Canada also released a statement after expelling four Russian diplomats and denying the credentials of three others overnight.
"The nerve agent attack in Salisbury, on the soil of Canada's close partner and ally, is a despicable, heinous and reckless act, potentially endangering the lives of hundreds,"
the country's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
Last week, EU chief Donald Tusk predicted that member states would introduce measures against Moscow over its suspected role in the spy poisoning case. Britain has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats, accusing them of being undeclared intelligence agents, which led Russia to expel the same number of British diplomats. The European Union has already recalled its ambassador to Russia.
Britain has accused Moscow of perpetrating the attack. The US, France and Germany have agreed it's highly likely that's the case.