US expels diplomats from Russia’s UN mission
US-Russia diplomatic relations have deteriorated further after Washington ordered, on Monday, the expulsion of 12 staffers from Moscow’s mission to the United Nations in New York.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, interrupted a press conference on Monday as his office notified him of the expulsions. He said US officials had delivered a letter saying that 12 Russian diplomats had been declared persona non grata and would have to leave the country by March 7.
“The US authorities have undertaken another hostile action against the Russian mission to the United Nations, grossly violating the commitments of the host country agreement that they undertook,” Nebenzia said.
The notice came less than one week after Washington expelled the second-ranking diplomat at Moscow’s embassy in Washington, Sergey Trepelkov. The US State Department attributed that move to Russia’s “unprovoked” expulsion of the deputy chief of mission from Washington’s embassy in Moscow.
The US expelled 27 Russian diplomats and their families late last year, demanding that they leave the country by January 30. Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said at the time that the embassy was facing a severe staffing shortage. Before that, Russia had nearly 200 diplomats working in the US, including Moscow’s mission to the UN.
Nebenzia told reporters that he didn’t know the reason, if any, cited by the US for the latest expulsions because he hadn’t seen the letter himself. Nor was he able to identify the diplomats who were ordered to leave.
A spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN told Reuters that the Russians who were expelled had been “engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.” She added that the expulsions have been in the works for several months, suggesting the move wasn’t driven by tensions over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Nebenzia called the order “sad news,” and “another demonstration of gross disrespect of the host country agreement.”