‘US expelling America’s friends’: Russian Ambassador decries Trump’s move as diplomats leave DC
“The US authorities have expelled American friends,” Antonov said of the departing diplomats in a video address. “They are not the US enemies… Our diplomats were developing cooperation between Russia and the US in different areas, among which are business, science, culture, space exploration and joint search for prisoners of war and missing in action.”
Calling the US' decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats “unfortunate,” Antonov expressed confidence that the current rift between Washington and Moscow will eventually be a thing of the past.
“We want everybody to understand that we [US and Russia] are destined to become friends again,” the ambassador said, adding that “only close interaction between our countries can help maintain international strategic stability and find mutually beneficial solutions to global and regional challenges.”
“Relations between ordinary people shouldn’t suffer” when there are problems on the state level, Antonov said. “We’ll do everything in our capacity to make sure that Americans have zero problems with trips to Russia.”
US President Donald Trump chose to expel the diplomats and close Russia’s consulate in Seattle after allegations of Russian involvement in former double agent Sergei Skripal’s poisoning in the UK. The measure has been promoted by the UK government of Theresa May, who has been openly accusing Moscow of poisoning Skripal without providing Russia or the public with any evidence.
In early March, Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned in Salisbury with what the UK said was a Soviet-designed nerve agent A-234 (referred to by London as "Novichok"). Without a proper investigation being carried out, London blamed Moscow for masterminding the attack, expelled Russian diplomats and introduced other restrictions against Moscow.
Live footage from RT showed the departure of diplomats and their families from the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC. They were delivered to the airport in Washington on buses and boarded the two planes provided by Russian airlines, Rossiya. Before heading back to Russia, the aircraft will land in New York to pick up the expelled staff from the Russian missions there.
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