Russia Hits Back: Expels 60 US Diplomats, Shuts Down American Consulate In St Petersburg

| March 30 , 2018 , 09:16 IST

Responding to the US's expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the shutting down of Russia's consulate in Seattle, Russia on Thursday announced the expulsion of 60 US diplomats and the shutdown of the US consulate in St Petersburg.

On March 26, US expelled 60 Russian diplomats in support of the UK which had expelled 23 Russian diplomats alleging that Russia had used a nerve agent to attack its former spy on Britain soil.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that 60 US diplomats, 58 from the US mission in Moscow and 2 from Yekaterinburg have been declared "persona non grata" for activities "incompatible with diplomatic status".

Larov added that the US Ambassador Jon Huntsman has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry and that the diplomats have been ordered to leave Russia by April 5.

The Russian embassy in US, on March 26 after the announcement of US expelling 60 Russian diplomats, conducted a twitter poll asking which US embassy should be shut down, in which the maximum number of votes went to the US embassy in St Petersburg.

Soon after Russia's announcement, the White House termed the move as a "further deterioration" in relations between the two countries although it was not unanticipated.

"Russia's response was not unanticipated, and the United States will deal with it," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Meanwhile, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that Washington would "reserve the right to respond" to the move.

"There is no justification for the Russian response. Our actions were motivated purely by the attack on the UK," Nauert added.

ALSO READ: Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats In Retaliation, Shuts British Embassy In Moscow

The poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal on British soil on March 4 sparked a controversy when the British authorities discovered that a 'nerve agent' had been used in the poisoning, which was banned and had not been used since World War 2. Russia, however, denied the allegations and its role in the poisoning.

Since then, more than 20 nations across the world have backed the UK and expelled a total of more than 100 Russian diplomats.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed the global expulsions of Russian diplomats as "absolutely unacceptable" and warned that Russia would retaliate.

He added that those countries that had expelled Russian diplomats had been put under "the greatest pressure of the US and the Great Britain".

Hitting back on the UK, Russia expelled 23 of its diplomats and shut down several British institutions in Russia as well.