World News

Australia joins 23 countries expelling Russians over Salisbury nerve agent attack

Australia joins 23 countries expelling Russians over Salisbury nerve agent attack

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the expulsions Monday as the USA and more than a dozen European allies took similar action against dozens of Russian diplomats in their own countries. This is the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of Cold War.

Canada, Ukraine and members of the European Union were among the countries that planned to expel "more than 100 Russian intelligence officers", May said.

The Donald Trump administration gave marching orders to 60 Russian diplomats stationed in the USA, including 12 members of Russia's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in NY.

The 60 people expelled from the USA include 48 attached to the Russian embassy and 12 at the country's mission to the United Nations.

Twenty-two other countries, including France, Germany and Poland, have also expelled a total of 77 Russian "intelligence personnel", according to the White House.

Russia's foreign minister says the expulsions of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain have followed US "blackmail".

Moscow has denied being behind the attack on Mr Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Mobile phone messages sent from one of those on the list, 13-year-old Maria Moroz, and published by Russian media, said: "We are burning".

Moscow denies involvement and has accused "powerful forces" in the US and Britain as being behind the attack.

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Former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, an Atlantic Council distinguished fellow, agrees, telling VOA: "Russian fingerprints were clearly on this attack, and a stiff response was necessary". "What the United States of America do today is they are destroying the little that is left from the Russian-American relations", he said.

Sources from the Department of Foreign Affairs have said there would be no grounds for retaliation from the Russian side to Ireland's expulsion of a diplomat, and say any retaliation against Irish officials would be entirely without foundation.

The U.S. expulsions were particularly noteworthy given that President Donald Trump has been accused of being soft on Moscow, especially in light of allegations it interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"You've got a complete disregard of cherished worldwide rules and norms, which is something risky in a world where increasingly we point to rules and norms as the way we order how states behave", he said.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in critical condition.

Russian Federation has denied its involvement in the alleged assassination of Skripal, which left the spy and his daughter gravely ill.

The verification of poisoning by nerve agent is yet to be confirmed by Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). British Prime Minister Theresa May said the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. Besides, Ottawa will also deny three applications by the Russian government for additional diplomatic staff in Canada.

Some have drawn a connection to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and the Russian government, as well as Trump's past business relationships with Russian figures.


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