US PresidentDonald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians as the diplomatic dispute between Russiaand the UK intensifies over a spy poisoning case.
Up to 17 EU countries have also announced that they will expel 34 Russian diplomats.
The US – backing its closest ally – said on Monday it was closing the Russian consulate in Seattle in response to the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Both are critically ill in a UK hospital after being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in the southern English city of Salisbury last month.
The United States takes this action – in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world – in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilising activities around the world,” the White House said in a statement.
Sarah Sanders,White House press secretary, saidthe US and its allies want to send a message to Russia that “actions have consequences”.
Many of the Russians expelled were intelligence officials.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, responded by saying the US decision was “wrongful”, RIA news agency reported.
“What the United States of America do today is they are destroying the little that is left from the Russian-American relations,” he said.
The Russian embassy in the US asked Twitter followers to vote which US consulates they would close in Russia, if they could decide.
Besides the embassy in Moscow, the US has three consulates in the country.
Maria Zaharova,Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, told state TV channel Rossia1 that Russia will respond in kind to every country involved in the expulsions. She also accused the US and the UK of setting up the attack against Skripal.
Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, said the coordinated move was “the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever”.
He called it an “extraordinary international response by our allies” and showed that “Russia cannot break international rules with impunity.”