North Atlantic Treaty Organisation expels Russian diplomats in response to United Kingdom attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin.                  Anatoly Maltsev  Pool via REUTERS
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Anatoly Maltsev Pool via REUTERS
Author

28 March, 2018

Jens Stoltenberg announced on Tuesday that the intergovernmental military alliance would be expelling seven observers from the Russian mission over the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK.

Stoltenberg says "we will continue to work for meaningful dialogue" with Russian Federation but the measure announced Tuesday "send a very clear message to Russian Federation that it has costs".

Stoltenberg said that Russian Federation had exhibited a pattern of disregarding the sovereignty of other nations, going back to the illegal annexation of Ukraine's region of the Crimea in 2014.

The Skripals remain in a critical state in hospital, and Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that "they may never fully recover".

Stoltenberg says, despite the expulsions, Russian Federation will still have a diplomatic mission of 20 people at alliance headquarters in Brussels and that will allow Russian Federation to keep essential contacts with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members.

The move came after more than 20 western allies ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom, in a show of solidarity that represents the biggest concerted blow to Russian intelligence networks in the West since the cold war.

"This is the result of colossal pressure, colossal blackmail which is the main instrument of Washington on the global arena", Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday.

"Rest assured, we will respond".

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Moscow has fiercely denied any involvement in his attempted murder, instead pointing the finger at London.

This has been done so far by several other European countries that are not members of the EU: Ukraine (13), Norway (one), Albania (two) and Macedonia (one).

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, hinted the Kremlin would respond with tit-for-tat expulsions, saying Russian Federation would proceed from the "principle of reciprocity".

Earlier this month, Britain announced to expel 23 Russian diplomats and freeze Russian state assets in Britain.

Amid the coordinated effort of the West, the U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and intelligence officials, and the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle.

A number of countries including the United States said the Russian diplomats they were throwing out were actually undeclared spies.

They were found on March 4 unconscious on a public bench in the city and a British court says they may have suffered permanent brain damage in the attack.

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