16 EU states announce coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats over Skripal case
Half of the European Union's member states have decided to expel Russian diplomats over the Sergei Skripal case, European Council president Donald Tusk confirmed. It comes despite zero evidence that Moscow was responsible.
Germany, France, and Poland topped the charts of EU countries making expulsions, announcing they would each be sending four Russians out of their respective countries.
Lithuania and the Czech Republic both announced they would be expelling three diplomats. Meanwhile the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, and Spain jumped on board with two expelled diplomats per country.
Finland, Sweden, Romania, Croatia, and Hungary are expelling one each. Latvia also announced that it would be expelling one diplomat and an Aeroflot employee, and Estonia's foreign minister confirmed the country would be expelling a military attaché at the Russian embassy.
Ukraine, which is not an EU member state, announced it would be expelling 13 diplomats. Albania, another country which is not part of the bloc, said it would be expelling two. Norway said it would expel one.
Meanwhile, Iceland also said it is temporarily suspending its bilateral contacts with Russia at the highest level, TASS news agency reported, citing the Russian envoy to the country.
Further afield, Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats from the United States, as well as the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.
Moscow will respond to the actions of each individual state that has expelled Russian diplomats, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
“Necessary steps will be made regarding each country involved, both on the diplomats’ expulsion, and on the closure of the Russian Consulate General in Seattle,” she promised.
Meanwhile, Austria said it won’t be joining the punitive measures against Russia, according to government spokesperson Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal. “We are determined to maintain open channels of dialogue with Russia,” he told RIA Novosti, adding that Austria is a “neutral country and a sort of bridge between the East and the West.” Vienna, however, stands by the decision to recall the EU’s ambassador from Russia, he added.
Western countries have pointed the finger at Russia over the poisoning of Skripal, a former double-agent, and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK on March 4. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson went so far as to suggest the attack was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia has denied playing a role in the poisoning, and has offered its full cooperation in the investigation. Moscow’s request for samples of the toxic agent used on Skripal and his daughter has been declined by Britain.