Russia on Monday vowed to expel dozens of western diplomats, in a tit-for-tat diplomatic response by the UK, the US and other countries over the Salisbury nerve gas attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
In an official communique, the Russian foreign ministry issued a “determined protest” to the expulsions and said it would respond to the “unfriendly act”.
“The provocative gesture of proverbial solidarity with London by these countries, having being led along by the British authorities in the so-called Skripal case and not having bothered to sort out the circumstances of what happened, are the continuation of a confrontational line toward escalating the situation,” the ministry wrote in its statement.
On Monday, the Russian embassy to the US launched a Twitter poll asking users to vote on which American consulate should be closed in Russia. The US has an embassy in Moscow and consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, The Guardian reported.
Konstantin Kosachev, the chair of the upper house of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs council, said on Facebook on Monday that the expulsions of its diplomats were “unprecedentedly dirty” and accused western countries of following a “herd instinct”.
“It will happen everywhere until they wake up and come to their senses. We should not expect any apologies, that’s not what this unprecedentedly dirty and low game was made for,” he wrote on the social media site.
For the unversed, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday announced that he would be expelling two Russian diplomats.
Australia became the latest country to join in the unprecedented international response to the poisoning of Skripal earlier this month.
On Monday, the United States led the charge with President Donald Trump, expelling 60 Russian diplomats and flagging that it will close a Russian consulate in Seattle, located near America’s sensitive aerospace hub and a submarine base.
Subsequently, 14 European Union (EU) countries followed suit, ousting dozens of Russian officials from their respective soils.
According to RT news, Germany, France and Poland have expelled four diplomats each, their respective foreign ministries confirmed on Monday, while The Netherlands, Denmark and Italy will expel two diplomats each, their foreign ministries said.
Lithuania has expelled three, their foreign minister said. The Czech Republic will expel the same number of diplomats.
Meanwhile, Latvia is expelling one diplomat and an Aeroflot employee, and Estonia’s foreign minister has confirmed the country is expelling a military attache at the Russian embassy. Finland and Sweden are expelling one each.
Ukraine is set to send 13 Russian officials home.
The US has given the expelled Russians seven days to leave, and the Australian government is expected to give the intelligence officials a similar amount of time.
Last week, UK suspended 21 Russian diplomats back to Moscow after the former said that Russia was “highly responsible” for the poisoning attack.
British Prime Minister Theresa May called the incident “a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil.” and has accused Russia of carrying out the attack.
However, Moscow has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to retaliate. President Vladimir Putin described the accusations as “delirium” after he won another six-year term as president.
The EU on last Monday strongly condemned the poisonous attack on Skripal, while stating that it takes the UK assessment of Moscow’s possible involvement in it “extremely seriously.”
Retired military intelligence officer Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on March 4. However, they remain in a critical but stable condition in hospital.