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UK allies expel dozens of Russian diplomats over Salisbury nerve agent attack

The US is sending home 60 Russian officials in a show of support over the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter

Russia is facing the expulsion of dozens diplomats from America and Europe as key allies rallied behind Britain over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The United States led the way with the announcement that 60 suspected Russian spies have been given seven days to leave the country.

In Brussels, European Council president Donald Tusk said that 14 member states were expelling diplomats in a co-ordinated show of support for the UK.

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(PA Graphics)

Among the EU member states taking action were Germany and Poland – which each said they were expelling four diplomats. Lithuania and the Czech Republic have each ordered three diplomats to leave while Denmark is expelling two.

The expulsions were welcomed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who said on Twitter: “Today’s extraordinary international response by our allies stands in history as the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever & will help defend our shared security. Russia cannot break international rules with impunity.”

The moves come after EU leaders last week backed Theresa May’s assertion that there was “no plausible alternative explanation” other than Russia was responsible for the attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

In addition to the expulsions, the White House said that the US was also closing the Russian consulate in Seattle “due to its proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing”.

A White House statement said: “The United States takes this action in conjunction with our Nato allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilising activities around the world.

“Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security.

“With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences.”

Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen tweeted: “Russia has gone too far. An assassination attempt in a European city with a Russian nerve agent is completely unacceptable.”

A German foreign ministry statement said the expulsions were “a strong signal of solidarity with Great Britain and signals the resolve of the Germany government not to leave attacks against our closest partners and allies unanswered”.

The ministry added that the move was also a response to the recent cyber attacks against German government networks, “which according to information so far is highly likely to be attributable to Russian sources.”

The expulsions came after Britain expelled 23 undeclared intelligence officers – prompting the tit-for-tat expulsion by the Russians of the same number of UK diplomats.

A No 10 spokesman said: “We welcome today’s actions by our allies, which clearly demonstrate that we all stand shoulder to shoulder in sending the strongest signal to Russia that it cannot continue to flout international law.”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, visiting Estonia, also  welcomed the expulsions.

“I think that is the very best response that we can have because their intention, their aim, is to divide and what we are seeing is the world uniting behind the British stance,” he said.

“That in itself is a great victory and that sends an exceptionally powerful message to the Kremlin and President Putin.”

In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry accused Britain’s allies of “blindly following the principle of Euro-Atlantic solidarity in violation of common sense, norms of civilised international dialogue and international law”.

It said Russia would respond to the “unfriendly” move but gave no further details.

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